Today kicks off Sunshine Week, an effort to pull away the obstacles government officials create to prevent the public from seeing information about the decisions elected officials make day after day.
Many people, almost overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available to today via the Internet and other sources, might assume all actions by officials are on the public record somehow. That’s not the case.
And public officials, playing on the public’s fear of personal information being exposed on those same sources, have made moves to hide their activities under the guise of building better privacy laws for people.
The Center for Public Integrity, after a recent survey, gave more than half of state governments a grade of a D or F for transparency, according to The Associated Press. That might be good news for an official who stands to benefit from some sweet deal or an officeholder who wants to dodge accountability for spending too much of the public’s money on a pet project, but it’s bad news for taxpayers.
Illinois’ Open Meetings Law lacks real teeth and needs stricter standards about when officials can meet behind closed doors and how they inform the public of those meetings beforehand. Given the way most of the General Assembly’s business is conducted these days — small groups of legislators meeting in private — chances for reform are slim.
Indiana’s version of the law is tougher. And Illinois residents deserve better.
Public officials at all levels work for taxpayers, period. Residents deserve to know what their representatives are up to. Stronger laws to create better transparency at all levels will be a benefit for everyone.