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under public records law

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, including the acts of public officers and employees.

 

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. They do it by holding meetings before the declared start time, prior to the public’s arrival.

 

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.

Could June be the key

to extending summer?

As legislators debate a bill that would allow school districts to start the school year before Sept. 1, something the tourism industry has opposed in the past, we believe the state should focus more effort on how to end the school year earlier.

 

Let’s face it. The start of athletic training in the first week of August in every school district pretty much ends the family vacation season. It really doesn’t matter when classes start if fall practices are going to start so early.

 

We have a much better chance of adding weeks to the summer vacation season by forcing schools to close by the first week of June. If some sports playoffs are still going, at least the numbers are limited and it won’t affect the majority of state schools.

 

Possible solutions include starting classes earlier in August, cutting some vacation days out during the school year or going to a minutes calculation instead of the 180-day rule. That way schools could adjust the daily schedule to get done by June 1.

 

Years of effort on a later school start hasn’t helped August tourism. Maybe we should focus on helping June to extend summer.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

 

Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 10:55 AM
 

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