Amid what is traditionally Colorado’s snowiest month, we are marking down a week of sunshine on our calendars.
Sunshine Week begins March 10. OK, it has nothing to do with the weather — it’s about open government and freedom of information.
Launched by the American Society of News Editors in 2005, the initiative is timed to coincide with the birthday of the “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison, on March 16.
As a media organization, we naturally embrace this national push for transparency. So should you.
“Though created by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why,” explains the website www.sunshineweek.org.
“Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.”
Think of the information you have access to that could make a difference in your daily life, your vote, your knowledge of the community.
• Crime rates in your city.
• Salaries of public officials at all levels of government.
• Voting records of lawmakers.
• Health-inspection records of local restaurants.
• Arrest reports, including the name, age and address of crime suspects.
• An accounting of who resides in the county jail.
• A list of convicted sexual predators in your neighborhood.
• Email exchanges of public officials.
• A complete spending plan by your city and county.
The list goes on.
Sunshine Week reinforces the need to hold public officials accountable for making sure you can access this information. Media outlets across the country will bring you reports highlighting the importance of doing so, and we’ll do our part next week and beyond. For your part, take a few moments to think about the role access to information plays in our nation’s freedoms. Also, take time to learn more about the Colorado Open Records Act (there’s tons of information online).
And remember, your right to know doesn’t end with Sunshine Week on March 16.