Open government the only way to go

What others say

Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2005

Many federal government agencies and state governments — in the name of security — advocated less openness with records and meetings after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But a new poll indicates Americans are adamant that good government depends on openness, with seven out of 10 people either "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about government secrecy, The Associated Press reports.

The poll commissioned for advocates of Sunshine Week, a coalition of media groups and other organizations in support of open government, also found that more than half of Americans believe government should provide more access to its records.

Federal and state officials should pay close attention.

In the wake of the 2001 attacks, federal officials yanked details about many government facilities off their Web sites while state legislatures in Florida and elsewhere curbed access to blueprints, floor plans and other details of public buildings.

Some adjustments in this age of terrorism and identity theft are justified, such as restricting access to some government building plans and personal Social Security numbers. But officials harm those they are supposed to serve when they use those concerns as blanket excuses to close more meetings and records.

Consider these insightful words from a former president:

"When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them and — eventually — incapable of determining their own destinies."

Who said it? Thomas Jefferson, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?

Try Richard Nixon, who was known for his efforts to stymie scrutiny of his administration.

Open government remains the best government.

— The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

March 16

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