Apologies to Johnny Nash, but it’s Sunshine Week, and the song lyrics seem so apropos (and there are links to more sunshine-themed songs below). You can see clearly when the sun in shining, and that applies to the weather as well as to open government.
Each year ICOG and other access advocacy organizations around the country observe Sunshine Week around the time of James Madison’s birthday (March 16). He was a champion of informed consent, and it’s good to pause to reflect on what that means and how we can work to attain it today.
This year, we at ICOG challenge you to get informed about the right to know, and then maybe even put it into practice by filing a public records request or attending a public meeting. If you’ve never done that before, we have information that can help on our Resources page. To get you started on the informed consent part, here’s a brief round-up of selected online readings about freedom of information, the state of secrecy and so forth.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a few other organizations have a great Sunshine Week site with background information and ideas for getting involved this week and beyond.
Amy Bennett from OpenTheGovernment.org served up a ripping good piece of testimony before Congress recently about how to improve the Freedom of Information Act. You can read her statement here.
The Center for Effective Government recently released an updated Access to Information Scorecard. Spoiler alert: Many federal agencies get failing grades.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) has introduced a Transparency in Government bill to open up information about Congress and the lobbying process. You can read a post about it from OpenSecrets.org or check out a nice summary from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). If you have a bit more time, you can read the full bill here (PDF download).
POGO also has an interesting post musing about the possibilities of a world where FOIA isn’t needed. Color us skeptical, but it’s an intriguing read.
Why are we so skeptical? Take a look at the New York Times‘ reporting about the growth of a secret legal complex in our country since the 9-11 attacks. Illuminating and disturbing.
If that’s not enough to make you think FOIA is needed more than ever, you should read the Associated Press report about the Obama administration’s rather dismal performance when it comes to open records.
Why worry about all this stuff? Well, it just might make us better off materially! It’s true, and the Washington Post has the data in this fascinating piece correlating national wealth with open access.
Of course, if you’re interested in the battle for access at the state and local level, please poke around our site, and maybe check out the Office of the Public Access Counselor, an official appointed specifically to work with citizens and officials on access issues.
Finally, just for fun, ICOG’s own Gerry Lanosga has put together a Sunshine Week playlist. Punch up these songs, and while you listen, get those FOIA letters going!