Do let sun shine on government
Sunday, March 16, 2014 12:00 AM
Daylight Saving Time kicked into gear a week ago, making some of us a little cranky in the mornings while most of us smile a bit more because we can still enjoy a decent amount of daylight at the end of the work day. Temperatures, although a bit erratic of late, seem to be heading north and beckoning us to break out our spring and summer clothing.
Sunshine. Lots of sunshine. It's what we have been missing and long for these past several months, and now, at long last, we see an opportunity to soak in the life-giving rays of sunshine. Sunshine is what brings to light that which has been in the dark. It is what delivers that which has been dormant and hidden.
And the point?
Today launches Sunshine Week, set aside each year to bring to the forefront the need for open and transparent government.
No, you won't find an advertising circular in today's newspaper in celebration of the week. The stores are not having special sales, the likes of which you see amidst the clutter of platitudes celebrating momentous occasions in our country's life, such as Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day. That's a shame, really, because at the very core of our Republic's democracy is government that operates in the open. We'd welcome a weeklong celebration that is replete with cookouts, parades and fireworks. Without government operating in the sunshine, we may as well keep our July 4th night skies darkened.
And yet, all too many people do not give a thought to open government. They do not care enough to vote for their representatives in government, they do not care what their representatives do — that is, unless and until what they do directly affects them. Otherwise, they mindlessly go about their days and, in some cases, even complain when the media acts in their best interest and on their behalf by seeking public information and documents that might reveal misappropriation of taxpayers' dollars, illegal purchases, collusion, corruption and even wrongful arrests.
While those people might accuse the media of meddling in matters that should remain private, the majority — thankfully — fully appreciate that someone, especially the Fourth Estate, as newspapers are commonly called, is diligent in being the government watchdog.
Sunshine Week was not, as some might incorrectly assume, established as media's celebratory week. Granted, you will probably hear more about it in the media. In fact, you will probably read more about it in newspapers, but the fact is that Sunshine Week belongs to you, the public.
South Carolina's own Freedom of Information Act is all too often viewed as some special legislation set aside for pesky newspapers that want to flex their muscles. Wrong. It is for you, the residents of this state, as a means of giving you muscle in acquiring what rightfully belongs to you: public information.
This week, we don't ask you to set off fireworks, put bunting on your porch railing or even invite your friends and neighbors over for a cookout in celebration of Sunshine Week. We do, however, ask you to not only consider and understand the importance of transparency in government, but also support those who are of the same mind come election time.