In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a need for “Sunshine Week,” which celebrates the right of the people to watch their government in action. That includes free access to meetings and documents that discuss the public’s business. An accessible government is a keystone of our democracy.
Unfortunately, too often the folks put in charge of government forget that “we the people” are the government, that every public employee and elected official works for the taxpayers and that every government document belongs to us. Sunshine Week, March 10-16, is spearheaded by journalists and news organizations to reinforce the notion that “Open Government is Good Government.”
North Carolina has strong, relatively clear Open Meetings and Public Records laws, yet too often news organizations and ordinary citizens are denied basic access. The StarNews alone has reported on many cases in which information was withheld or meetings closed, despite laws that require transparency. Part of the reason is that the penalty for breaking the law is meaningless. Ignorance of the law is another factor.