Sunday, March 12, 2006


Our Views: Shining the light is your job, too


A lot of people in local, state and federal government work very hard to keep you in the dark.

Very often, they figure that what you know could hurt them. It’s the nature of the beast, liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, independent or whatever.

March 12-18 is national Sunshine Week, an observance intended to call public attention to the importance of open government.

A big part of our job is shedding light on things people in government don’t want you to know, but that’s as much your responsibility as ours.

You have to watch them all and hold them accountable.

That means everyone in government: everybody from presidents, governors, mayors, members of Congress, legislators, council and school board members to police, firefighters, public works employees, appointed officials and bureaucrats.

They greatly outnumber us, but you vastly outnumber them.

Constant vigilance is necessary to maintain open government at the local, state and federal levels. It is a huge job, and an essential one, especially in our state.

Louisiana is notorious for cronyism, back-room deals, political back-scratching and outright, naked corruption. Fortunately, Louisianians have some useful weapons at their disposal, notably strong open meetings and public records laws.

Those aren’t just tools of our trade; they’re yours, too, and you have to make use of them.

We can help you oversee government by providing information, but it’s up to you to make use of that information, and to gather some information of your own, when necessary.

You have to pay attention to the conduct of elected officials, political appointees, legions of bureaucrats and other public employees, and you must insist that they do their jobs properly.

You will get open government only if you make it your business to demand it, and you cannot do that only during Sunshine Week.

It’s a year-round job, 24/7, all 52 weeks of the year, with no time off.

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