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Sunshine Week puts spotlight on need for transparency

For most people, transparency in government is little more than an abstract concept that shows up from time to time in news reports but has little apparent impact on people’s daily lives.

Of course, everyone wants to know what’s going on at City Hall, when those goings on are important. But it isn’t anything anyone should worry too much about.

We, in the news business, would argue just the opposite is true. The more the average taxpayer knows about his or her government, the better the quality of governance will be.

In fact, transparency in government was the central reason Sunshine Week was started, back in 2005. Marking its 16th anniversary this year and this week, it underscores why government must always be monitored and done so in a nonpartisan way.

In other words, you have a right to know — period.

The law provides a whole series of methods and means that average citizens can use to accomplish this, but the two primary vehicles are the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Together they put legal teeth — when teeth are needed — into people’s right to know.

And given the times we’re living, that couldn’t be more important.

Partisanship is at an all-time high. Legitimate news media has been branded purveyors of so-called fake news and suggestions that alternative facts provide more than one version of the truth are everywhere.

Regrettably, the internet has to some degree fed this beast and allowed it to grow and grow.

Sunshine Week is an opportunity for people, in and out of the news business, to stop and take stock. To look at ways that these laws can be strengthened, expanded to increase transparency and better ensure the public’s right to know is being provided and protected.

Nothing is guaranteed, including — and most especially — the truth.

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