Government thrives in the sunshine


If democracy dies in darkness, that logic should dictate that government thrives under direct sunlight.

Such is the theory championed and emphasized during Sunshine Week, occurring right now (between March 10 and 16), which is driven by a growing nonpartisan group of newspaper organizations to implore the importance of fostering an open, transparent process between those who administer the government and those who are governed.

It’s no surprise that as a newspaper group, we are intricately interested in being provided better access to the workings of government so we may report items of importance to our readers. But we would argue that, beyond our own needs, the average citizen in any community should also be rooting for such access.

The pandemic provided a stark lesson to the entire nation regarding how crucial it is to understand what decisions are being made by whom, why they are being made, and whether or not those decisions are appropriate, necessary, or even legal under existing laws. That period of rapid, often-chaotic decisionmaking truly emphasized how much of an impact our government can have on our day-to-day lives, and showed why we should be keenly aware of its actions.

Positive changes also came from that period regarding public access to government proceedings. For example, many towns and cities across Rhode Island — which up until that point had only held public meetings in person — began holding municipal meetings for various boards remotely online; opening up access to more citizens than ever who can’t necessarily dedicate multiple hours during a weekday evening to trek down to city halls. This is a practice that should continue to expand, until every board has meetings on the record, available for remote viewing and accessible even after the adjournment motion is passed.

The ongoing catastrophe caused by the Washington Bridge provides another example why transparency is important, and why leaders in government must be accountable to the people whose safety depends upon their ability to make sound decisions.

If you have ever found yourself wanting to know more about how to access public records, and why such access is important, there is a worthwhile event happening in our neck of the woods this Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the William Hall Library (1825 Broad St., Cranston). Speakers include Wheeler Cowperthwaite of The Providence Journal, Colleen Cronin of ecoRI News, Edward Fitzpatrick of The Boston Globe and Eli Sherman of WPRI-Providence. Registration is free and available at act.commoncause.org/events/demystifying-democracy-sunshine-week-2024/.

government, sunshine


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