Burriss: Sunshine for all folks

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It may still be a little chilly and cloudy outside, but this week has been designated Sunshine Week. Not about the weather, but promoting the idea of government in the sunshine...open records and open meetings.

Unfortunately, too many people think the idea of open records and open meetings are for the media, not for them personally. But in fact, the whole idea of government in the sunshine is for the people.

Look at it this way: How do you know which claims by public officials are true and which are not? I'm not talking about things like the federal budget or health care. I'm talking about local politics: how are various officials connected with major construction projects? Who owns that piece of land being proposed for a new school? Are some people who are arrested getting preferential treatment?

Those are all local questions having a direct impact on local voters.

Regrettably, we have seen a steady erosion of your right to find answers to these, and many other questions? Why, because too many government officials don't want you to know.

Now, I have a theory about why these people are making it so hard for you to know what's going on: it's because they have something to hide. Period! They have something to hide because they are doing things they don't want you to know about, and are probably illegal, or at least unethical.

Now it's true reporters may have a better knowledge of how the system works, but Sunshine Laws give you, the individual citizen, the right to see those pieces of paper and attend those meetings where decisions are made.

Of course, reporters have more time to do the hunting for records and evaluating documents, so you don't have to. So yes, reporters probably use the Sunshine Laws more than you do, but that doesn't preclude you from doing your own investigating.

After all, how many times have you heard, "If you want something done right, do it yourself"?

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Larry Burriss
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