Happy Sunshine Week
Government transparency is not for the benefit of newspapers alone.
We are trained to use government transparency laws like the Michigan Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts, and we have the time to access and analyze government documents so you don’t have to, but the laws were created for you.
Government does its business on the public’s dime, and is therefore supposed to do its business on behalf of the public. The only way to know for sure whether that’s happening is for the public to have access to the inner workings of its government.
This week is Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of existing transparency laws and a time to advocate for more government openness. To mark the occasion, The News went back to the basics, with every edition this week featuring conversations with various local governments about the inner workings of their jobs.
That we can have such conversations is a testament to the benefits of government transparency laws, but still more must be done in Michigan.
The Legislature and Governor’s Office are currently excluded from transparency requirements. That must be undone.
Often, the only effective recourse for a resident who believes his or her government has wrongly denied a FOIA request is for that resident to sue, paying up front for court costs he or she might not win back. It needs to be easier for residents.
Violations of FOIA and the Open Meetings Act are rarely prosecuted. That needs to change, so the signal is clear that this state sees transparency as a mandatory expectation of government operations.
We have much to celebrate in this state, but much work still to do this Sunshine Week.