Today we join newspapers across the nation in celebrating "Sunshine Week," a campaign aimed at reminding the public of open government's importance in a democracy. Unfortunately, some government officials don't believe in openness, and there have been efforts, to dissuade the public from accessing information or even believing it has a right to see it.
Sunshine Week week is not about furthering media rights but everyone's access to government. Indeed, in California the media operates under no special privileges. It gathers information using the very laws that every single citizen also possesses.
With few exceptions, government records ¬Ė budgets, contracts, studies ¬Ė can be seen by anyone in the public. In addition, elected bodies' meetings almost always must be open to the public. None of us should ever forget that government gathers records and makes decisions at the pleasure of voters and taxpayers. The records are gathered and meetings are held in the public's name and at public expense. All of us have the right to see those records and attend meetings to see if our interests are best being served.
But some government officials do not believe the public is intelligent enough to judge the decisions made on its behalf. Some government officials do not believe that potentially embarrassing information, which may result in officeholders not being re-elected or staff being fired, should be released. Some government officials do not believe the public is capable of responding any way but hysterically if certain information is released. Some government officials believe information about them only should be given if it first goes through their own filter. Indeed, during the past five months, officials from varying governments right here in Del Norte County have listed each of these four reasons for not releasing information to The Daily Triplicate.
A good number of government officials are open with the public they serve. Today, we applaud them for knowing that the post they've taken is about serving the public rather than holding it in contempt.
To those government officials who opt not to be open, we urge them to either change their attitude or their jobs. You may think keeping information private serves the public's interest, but in truth, a government conducted in the shadows only serves the interest of government officials.