Every citizen has access
This is Sunshine Week in America, a week-long celebration of laws that promote open government and enhance the public’s right to know — the foundation of a participatory democracy and a crucial part of our republic form of government.
In Wisconsin, vibrant “sunshine laws” such as the Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law provide broad access to information about how our state and local governments operate.
Public oversight of government activity on every level is at the heart of our democratic form of government. Organizations promoting this year’s observance are emphasizing the theme that open government is a vital interest of every American, not just the media.
Our readers should know that this newspaper and other media outlets have no special right to access public records. In fact, public records laws and open meetings laws are in place to guarantee that any citizen has access to information concerning how their government is doing business.
At all levels of government, there are officials bent on locking the public out of the governmental process. They do this by holding secret meetings or illegally going into closed sessions when the topics at hand rightfully should be debated in open meetings. They do it by discussing issues via email exchanges that deny public access to the deliberations.
The nonpartisan Sunshine Week is celebrated in mid-March to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, considered the father of open government who wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
It’s your government and it’s your money that’s paying for it. You deserve to know how that money is being spent and whether waste, fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest or just bad decision making is getting in the way.
The 23rd annual Klondike Days drew an estimated audience of 8,000 during the first weekend of March, an event that continues to boost winter tourism because of its incredible diversity and family-based orientation.
This popular, multifaceted event is unique to Wisconsin, centered around the themes of lumberjacks and logging, trapping and trading, Native American culture and our rich North Woods history.
It would not be possible, however, without the dedicated work of the Klondike board of directors, executive director Christine Schilling and the hundreds of individuals and organizations who volunteer time to park cars, serve food and help run the events.
Few communities in Wisconsin could pull off such a diverse winter event year after year. It’s a testament to the community-minded, hard-working people who reside in Eagle River and surrounding towns.
We tip our hats to everyone who helped in any way with Klondike Days.
|Tuesday, March 12, 2013 3:41 PM|