(The following editorial appeared in The Valdosta Daily Times on August 12, and was written by The Times editorial staff.)
Why should readers, a community and government officials themselves care about government transparency?
Here are some people that can explain it better than we ever could:
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” — Patrick Henry.
“The same prudence, which, in private life, would forbid our paying our money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of public moneys.” — Thomas Jefferson.
“Information is the currency of democracy.” — Thomas Jefferson.
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their government, for whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they can be relied on to set things right.” — Thomas Jefferson.
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.” — Abraham Lincoln.
“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” — James Madison.
“A fundamental premise of American democratic theory is that government exists to serve the people. … Public records are one portal through which the people observe their government, ensuring its accountability, integrity, and equity while minimizing sovereign mischief and malfeasance.” — Sandra Day O’Connor.
The fundamental and underlying principle of our form of government is that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.
Open government is good government — or at least it is better government.
Local government can only be “of, by and for the people,” when it is before the people and not hidden behind the closed doors of an executive session or in concealed documents.
That’s why we care about open government.
And, more importantly, that is why you should care about open government and why elected officials should be committed to doing all the people’s business out in the open.