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Tag Archive | "Sunshine Week"

Let the sun shine in


 

N-Sunshine-weekWe may have had some much-needed outdoor sunshine in the past week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 12-18 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government.

In this week’s paper, stories marked with a sunshine week emblem show that they were made possible through the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act. We hope this will bring awareness to how much we depend on an open, honest government.

It is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to keep the focus on having an open government.

For more information on the FOIA and OMA acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can learn about both federal and state guidelines.

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Sunshine Week celebrates the public’s right to know


 

N-Sunshine-weekBy MIZELL STEWART III, Gannett/USA TODAY Network

Rita Ward had a question: Why did a weekly listing of causes of death suddenly stop appearing in the local newspaper?

It turned out the health department in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, halted its practice of providing causes of death to the Evansville Courier & Press. When Ward and a reporter for the newspaper asked why those records were no longer available, the department cited an Indiana law intended to protect citizens against identity theft.

“I truly do believe printing the cause of death is important,” Ward told the Courier & Press in a 2012 interview. “Maybe a reader might see a neighbor who died of colon cancer and make the decision to have their first overdue colonoscopy. It can be a first step toward a change for the better. It can touch a reader. It’s personal. That’s why it is important.”

V-SunshineWeekWard and the newspaper sued for access to the information under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. They lost two lower-court rulings before the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the records, focused on the decedent’s name, age and cause of death, should continue to be made available to the public. In their ruling, the judges underscored “the importance of open and transparent government to the health of our body politic” and held that “the public interest outweighs the private.”

The court’s explicit link between government transparency and the welfare of citizens underpins Sunshine Week, a national, non-partisan effort to highlight the critical role of open government and freedom of information at the local, state and federal levels. The March 12-18 celebration is led by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gridiron Club and Foundation.

Now, more than ever, Americans are urged to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy. Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media.
In addition to ordinary citizens such as Rita Ward, access to government information helps citizen’s groups hold public officials accountable through firsthand observation of their actions. Access also enables historians to accurately describe past events and gives individuals critical information about public safety in the neighborhoods where they live.

The National Park Service, fulfilling a request under the Freedom of Information Act, provided aerial photographs that showed a sharp contrast between crowds on the National Mall for the inauguration of President Trump and those who turned out for the first inauguration of President Obama.

Despite public statements by Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that crowds for Trump dwarfed those of Obama, the photos—not the words of government officials—told the full story.

In addition to state laws in Indiana and across the country, the Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the right to obtain information from the federal government—information that your tax dollars paid to collect. In addition, more and more local governments are leveraging technology to make public information, from traffic data to public transit schedules, even more accessible and more useful to citizens.

This week and every week, take a moment to consider what your life would be like if government officials operated in total secrecy and restricted your access to information. Support organizations fighting against those in power who seek to weaken open government protections. Join with fellow citizens in seeking disclosure. When you want information from a police department, local government or school board, ask for it.

Just like Rita Ward learned in the Indiana death records case, you have the right to know.

Mizell Stewart III is president of the American Society of News Editors and Vice President/News Operations for Gannett and the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MizellStewart.

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Let the sun shine in


N-Sunshine-week

We may have had some much-needed outdoor sunshine in the past week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 13-19 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government.

In this week’s paper, stories marked with a sunshine week emblem show that they were made possible through the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act. We hope this will bring awareness to how much we depend on an open, honest government.

It is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to keep the focus on having an open government.

For more information on the FOIA and OMA acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can learn about both federal and state guidelines.

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Let the sun shine in


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We may be having some much-needed outdoor sunshine this week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 15-21 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government.

In this week’s paper, stories marked with a sunshine week emblem show that they were made possible through the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act. We hope this will bring awareness to how much we depend on an open, honest government.

It is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to keep the focus on having an open government.

For more information on the FOIA and OMA acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can learn about both federal and state guidelines.

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Mackinac Center gets FOIA charges reduced from$1,550 to $50


 

sw-riconcMichigan Liquor Control Commission waives fees for virtual copies

In celebration of Sunshine Week (March 15-21), the Mackinac Center for Public Policy announces its victory in persuading the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to release public information at a more reasonable cost. After being sued by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, the MLCC removed the charges for paper copies that do not exist.

On Nov. 7, 2014, Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive requested data from the government agency in person while conducting research on “post and hold” rules for alcohol prices. Those rules allow wholesale distributors to collude and keep prices artificially high. Empirical research estimates consumers pay 6.4 percent to 30 percent more because of this practice.

An MLCC employee told LaFaive the data could be transferred to a flash drive on the spot. Not having a flash drive at the time, LaFaive offered to return in person with one to obtain the information. LaFaive agreed to submit an official Freedom of Information Act request.

On November 14, MLCC’s FOIA coordinator said a cost estimate and deposit was required for processing. The invoice estimated the cost of to be $50.22 for an hour and a half of labor ($33.48/hour) and $1,500 for copying 6,000 pages, at 25 cents a page.

On Jan. 22, 2015, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit seeking relief from being charged for 6,000 virtual pages that did not exist on paper. Because of the lawsuit, the government agency withdrew its cost for digital files.

“Keeping government transparent and accountable to taxpayers is a primary concern for us,” said Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox. “Taxpayers have a right to this public information. They should not be charged exorbitant amounts of money for documents that are rightfully theirs, nor should they be charged for virtual copies of public documents. The MLCC tried to put a roadblock in the way of the public getting information. Our lawsuit changed its mind.”

In 2013, the foundation sued the city of Westland for charging an illegal gatekeeping fee and overcharging for labor and copying costs. As a result of the lawsuit, Westland changed its policies to comply with the law.

“The Mackinac Center uses FOIA to make sure government is serving the public, not the system,” said Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz, who also serves as a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. “Government agencies should be willing to comply with the law rather than try to find ways to avoid it.”

“The MLCC FOIA coordinator said it was waiving fees for hypothetical copies ‘in the spirit of cooperation,’” said LaFaive. “We hope that cooperation continues when we request public documents in the future.”

 

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Let the sun shine in


swlogo-web

We may be enjoying some much-need outdoor sunshine this week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 16-22 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government.

In this week’s paper, stories marked with a sunshine week emblem show that they were made possible through the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act. We hope this will bring awareness to how much we depend on an open, honest government.

It is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to keep the focus on having an open government.

For more information on the FOIA and OMA acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can scroll down the page, and see the state guide for Michigan.

 

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Let the sun shine in


We may be enjoying some much-need outdoor sunshine this week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 11-17 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government.

In this week’s paper, stories marked with a sunshine week emblem show that they were made possible through the Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act. We hope this will bring awareness to how much we depend on an open, honest government.

It is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to keep the focus on having an open government.

For more information on the Federal FOIA and OMA acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can also scroll down the page, and see the state guide for Michigan.

 

 

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