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POSTED: April 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Newspapers around the country are promoting the week of March 16-22 as Sunshine Week in an effort to get Americans to be more aware of the importance of open government.

It’s a worthwhile endeavor in a time when seemingly fewer of us care much what our government is up to – at the national, state or local level.

If you don’t think so, then ask yourself this: When’s the last time you attended a meeting of your city council, county commission or school board? If you’ve attended one recently, were you in a crowd or one of a few?

Our guess is the latter, unless your attendance was brought about by a hot button issue impacting a great number of residents.

There are, of course, plenty of excuses for not attending meetings. Work, family and other obligations often get in the way. Plus, who can get excited about sitting through a two hour city council meeting after a hard day’s work?

But if you consider living in a free country a privilege, then one of the responsibilities surely must be keeping an eye on your government officials – the vast majority of whom are in public service to serve the public and do so honestly, we believe.

That’s why we think Sunshine Week is about more than letting you know how important open government is and it's about more than cautioning that there will always be threats to open government from those who prefer the public’s business be conducted in private.

Of course, the plain truth is that there is no good reason to close the doors on public access unless the issue deals with national security or three exemptions provided for by Georgia's Sunshine Laws – real estate acquisition, personnel or legal matters.

Unfortunately, too often public apathy is a more effective barrier to open government than anything else – since it sends the message to public officials that its constituency doesn't care about the decisions they make.

That's why we believe Sunshine Week is also about reminding you of your responsibility to keep tabs on what your elected and appointed representatives are doing by attending meetings and staying informed on the issues facing your community.

Now, that's really open government.

 

Bryan County News

March 19, 2008

 

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