Our Opinion: Public trust requires open government

Transparency allows the public to monitor the workings of government.

Every person, every day is affected by the deliberations and actions of government and its agencies on taxation, regulation, education, transportation and countless other matters.

Even when witnessed through a clear window, the operations of government can be complicated and controversial. How often have you heard someone say — or said yourself — “government can’t be trusted”?

Amid that cloud of mistrust, imagine how much darker the public perception would be if government routinely operated behind closed doors.

The importance of open government is the focus of National Sunshine Week, observed through Friday.

Preserving and strengthening Missouri’s Open Meetings and Open Records Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, is a priority for journalists. It allows us to keep the public informed about the activities of government.

But open government also must be a priority for officials, both elected and appointed, and for the public.

During the observance of Sunshine Week, a Sunshine Law Workshop will be hosted by Attorney General Chris Koster’s office. The free presentation will be at 10 a.m. Friday in room 450 of the Governor Office Building, 200 Madison St.

Topics will include: Sunshine Law applications; what constitutes a public meeting and public record; liberal construction of the law; procedures and limitations for closing meetings and records; fees for copying public records; and frequently asked questions.

Presenters will be: Tom Durkin, public education director for the attorney general’s office; Margaret Landwehr, assistant attorney general; Brenda Siegler, Sunshine Law coordinator; and former Jefferson City Mayor John Landwehr, who will discuss his experiences with the law.

The public is invited to attend; we encourage attendance.

The Sunshine Law empowers you.

It authorizes you to obtain records and to attend, monitor and participate in the governing process.

The law enables you to demand accountability and entitles you to a government you trust.

The value of the Sunshine Law extends far beyond journalism. We urge you to embrace it and use it.

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