Open Government and You

It’s nice to write about “Sunshine Week” when the sun is actually shining outside. I’m still waiting for that, right now.

Sunshine Week (March 10-16, 2013) is a national initiative with the goal to both celebrate and focus on government transparency, open government and improving your access to government information. The term “sunshine” comes from a quote from Justice Louis Brandeis (of Brandeis University fame) who, in 1913 wrote,

…sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.

At that time, we only had print media as a reliable way to reach large masses of people on a regular basis, and Justice Brandeis saw the press as potentially “the greatest agency of good government”–but only “if the people are sufficiently interested to desire it.”

By Mark Goodson Streeter

By Mark Goodson Streeter in support of Sunshine Week

FOIA

When it comes to requests for Public Informaiton, many of us are aware of FOIA – the Freedom of Information Act, the “law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.”

These types of Public Records requests are a cornerstone of transparency and democracy – ensuring and empowering people to play an active role in their government, whether at the local, state or federal level. It helps keep us, your representatives honest, accountable, and responsive to you.  We, at the Town of Cary, are committed to Open Government, and you can learn more about that and how to request Public Records, here.

TAKE THE QUIZ

So, instead of talking about the value of Sunshine, I thought I would point out a few public records tidbits that I have learned in my first year as a public official. I also found this great quiz – that you should take, just for fun. Let me know what you think about it.

  1. All emails to Town Officials are Public Record and can be requested to be reviewed by a citizen.  Yes, that means that email you sent me about your neighbor’s fence, dog, cat… all public record.
  2. You don’t need a reason for requesting a public record. And you don’t have to show ID to get it.
  3. Property tax records are public. So yes, you can look up and see what your neighbor paid for his house.
  4. Meeting minutes are taken for all public meetings – work sessions, board meetings, as well as Open and Closed meetings in the Town of Cary.
  5. You can take pictures and tape record any public meeting.
  6. If more than council 3 members attend a meeting, it is a quorum, and we must abide by the Open Meetings laws.

Sunshine QuizNow, go ahead and take the QUIZ created by the Gaston Gazette.  (I’ve given you a few of the answers, above, so you should get at least a few of them right.) 🙂

 

 

 

There’s an APP for THAT

 

Sunshine AppDownload the new “Sunshine” iPhone app or Android app created by the Sunshine Center of NC – where you can learn more about the kind of information available, who holds it, how to get it, as well as the Laws behind this important function of government. You can download it by typing in “NC Sunshine” in the search field, as well.  And yes, it’s FREE.

 

As always, if you have comments, questions or just want to reach out, you can always reach me for town business at Lori.Bush@Townof Cary.org.

 

 

One Response to Open Government and You
  1. [...] the blog of Lori Bush, At-Large member of Cary Town [...]... carycitizen.com/2013/03/13/lori-bush-sunshine-week-in-cary

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