Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Open Government in Oklahoma: Doing the Public's Business in Public

It's Sunshine Week in Oklahoma—and that's a very good thing.

No, we're not talking about warmer March weather. We're talking about open government, specifically Oklahoma's Open Records Act, the state law that requires public officials to conduct the public's business in public.

That notion would seem to be a "no brainer" in a democracy. Yet as Joey Senat, OSU journalism professor and president of FOI Oklahoma writes in Sunday's Tulsa World, an Oklahoma sheriff recently told a newspaper reporter that public police reports couldn't be give to just "anybody who walks into the courthouse."

Wrong! Most of those "anybodies" are Oklahoma citizens and, as it happens, the sheriff works for them.

The World, to its credit, is promoting Sunshine Week in a series of articles aimed at educating the public about open meetings and open records.

It's a worthy cause, one all Oklahoma citizens should embrace. In a democracy, after all, the people are sovereign, which means "we, the people" have rights, one of which is to know what our public officials are doing in our name.

More information on the topic, check out www.sunshineweek.org.

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