transparencyprojectofgeorgia

SUNSHINE WEEK: Public notices must stay in the sun

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

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By Jim Zachary
Editor, Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times
Director, Transparency Project of Georgia

As we recognize Sunshine Week, the public’s right to know is under assault throughout the United States.

State lawmakers are whittling away at Sunshine Laws in multiple ways, not the least of which is the effort to remove requirements to publish public notices in the place where communities are most likely to find important information they want and need to know — in the local newspaper.

Efforts to allow local governments the option of placing required public notices on government websites, or on third party sites that bury the information is poor, ill-advised legislation that should be viewed as a threat to and further erosion of government transparency.

The reason public notices are required for publication in newspapers is to make them available to as wide an audience as possible.

Keeping public notices public is critical.

Public notices alert the general public about bankruptcy proceedings, adoptions, foreclosures, public hearings, tax liens, local legislative proposals, zoning changes and proposed tax increases — all things the public wants and needs to know.
Burying that information on a government website would be an assault on taxpayers, and all residents.

Public notices should not be hidden in a dark corner.

They should be kept out in the sunshine where they can be easily seen.

Government cannot be its own watchdog.

Newspapers have a long, important legacy of helping the public keep an eye on local government through news reporting and the publication of government notices.

Newspapers also serve as a historical record that will be looked upon by researchers now and years in the future. Much of that record is documented by public notices.

Simply placing required public notices on government owned or controlled websites would mean a person would have to know exactly what they’re searching for — or what keywords to use — in order to find the specific information they want to access.

The government website model effectively hides the actions of government.

Making public notices available online is important and almost all newspapers also place the notices on local websites and statewide sites through press associations that aggregate the data.

Lawmakers should stop assaulting the principles of government transparency and work, instead, to protect the public’s right to know.

For the media, this column and additional open government columns and cartoons are available this week at: 

http://www.sunshineweek.org


Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times and Director of the Transparency Project of Georgia (www.transparencyprojectofgeorgia.com)

Bring Open Government Symposium to your area

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Georgia Open Government Symposiums have been held in Macon, Valdosta, Athens, Douglasville and Savannah.

Journalists, community watchdog groups, government officials and staff have attended the free events that focus on the provisions of the Georgia Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act, while framing the discussion with the principles and importance of government transparency.

Presented by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and the Transparency Project of Georgia, the symposiums are intended to “incubate a culture of openness in local governments across the state of Georgia,” according the Transparency Project director Jim Zachary.

To schedule an event in your community contact Zachary at zacharyjim@gmail.com

Coverage of the West Georgia Open Government Symposium

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 at 9:00 am

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For complete coverage of the West Georgia Open Government Symposium by the Transparency Project of Georgia and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation can be found at:

http://www.douglascountysentinel.com/news/article_c7dc7452-ba1c-11e4-bb05-f74a621fd0c6.html

The Symposium is the latest in a series of Open Government Symposiums being held throughout the state of Georgia.

Previous events have been held in Macon, Valdosta and Athens. The next event will be held in Savannah in early March.

The events differ from government training government on open government, and focus on the principles of transparency, open records and open meetings laws and best practices for local officials.

Bring Open Government Symposium to your area

Taxpayers, government officials, newspaper groups, civic organizations or others interested in bringing the open government training to your area, contact director Jim Zachary at:

zacharyjim@gmail.com

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