Open and transparent government – you could call it the battle cry of community newspapers.
That’s what the public deserves from its officials, on the local, state and national level. And providing information about the doings of government at the local level is a job this newspaper continues to take seriously.
A reminder that government business conducted in the open is at the heart of a democracy. If we don’t know what our officials are doing, we don’t have the information to hold them accountable. And the more information we have, the better.
Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power. And that power is not something to be held close to the chest by politicians; it belongs in the open, available to everyone, especially to those who put politicians in office and depend on them for services, fair budgeting and just plain listening to the will of the people.
The key, of course, is open access to meetings and records. We hear a lot about government transparency on the national level; it’s at least as important at the town and school level, where decisions have more immediate impact on our pocketbooks and our lives.
Open government means newspapers, if they’re doing their job, must act as watchdogs, asking the uncomfortable questions, getting the information, and providing it to their readers. This is very hard to do when the government does things behind closed door. And if documents are not readily made available, the state’s Right to Know process is at the ready for anyone to use.
The “Your Right to Know.” That’s the heart of what government is all about. As a citizen in a democracy, you have the right to know how your government operates, and your elected officials have the obligation, except in carefully spelled out specific situations, to conduct their business in the open.
Sure, it’s a lot easier for officials to discuss public business in private, which they do, where negotiations and off-the-cuff comments and hypothetical situations can be aired in a controlled atmosphere. But that’s not the way things are supposed to work.
Discussion is to be done in public. Being in public office isn’t supposed to be easy, and it requires following the rules, whether you like them or not, sometime officials make up rules as they go along. Making it hard for the public to find out what’s going on is playing loose with open government.
That’s why we report the details of what’s been discussed. Then it’s up to all citizens to get involved and make sure their voices are heard.
So in the midst of it all, we’re happy to do our part to let the sun shine in all parts of town government.