Editor's Note: The Colorado Press Association kicks off a public awareness campaign today called "Operation Sunshine We Support Open Government in Colorado." The campaign is intended to stress the importance of open meeting and public records laws in Colorado. This week was chosen for the campaign in order to coincide with the 215th anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17.
In support of Operation Sunshine, the Steamboat Pilot & Today will present a series of editorials and guest columns this week beginning with the following commentary from the Colorado Press Association:
Open government is the best government.
Those six words are a simple statement of fact. An honest philosophy of openness. A basic guideline for good government.
It explains how public officials can maintain the trust of the people who elect them to office. It also serves as a way for people to be knowledgeable about and involved with government.
Elected officials who prefer little public debate and closed sessions hurt themselves. They foster suspicion and distrust. Public access to government meetings and records nurtures confidence in the decisions made by officials.
At the grass-roots level, people support their leaders when they are informed about officials' debate that leads to decisions. Members of school boards, town boards, city councils and boards of county commissioners benefit from open government when openness establishes a bond between a community's leaders and its residents.
"Operation Sunshine We Support Open Government in Colorado" is more than a catchy slogan. It's a campaign to help ensure that you have access to public records and meetings. That's why the Steamboat Pilot & Today supports the practice of open government.
Some may argue that only the press wants access to meetings and records. After all, how many people attend school board or county commissioner meetings? The answer, usually, is very few.
But it's not because the public isn't interested. It's because people have jobs, family activities, errands to run, houses to clean, gardens to tend, social obligations.
The press represents the public. Reporters attend meetings because residents can't. Reporters write news stories so the public can be informed.
An informed citizenry is a vital ingredient for a strong democracy. Open records and meetings laws that protect public access represent the second element of good government. Public officials who adhere to those laws and advocate open government are the third part of the recipe.
You don't elect people to keep secrets from you.
Open government will always be the best government.