Two hundred years ago, James Madison wrote, "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.” His words remain a call to action today.
Given the gravity of the issues facing our nation, there is a need for the public to have access to governmental decisions and policies that affect all Americans. Access to this information allows citizens to hold their government accountable at the local, state and national level. Whether it is to track how federal stimulus dollars are being spent or to attend a local government meeting where land use or school funding decisions are being made, “sunshine laws” afford us access and create government transparency.
However, these laws are only as good as we, the people, demand that they be. During his first year in office, President Barack Obama has made a commitment to creating a more transparent, participatory and collaborative federal government. Now, it is our responsibility as residents of Columbia and Boone County to ensure that this same commitment is made here.
March 14 through 20 is Sunshine Week (held around Madison’s birthday), a national initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information. I encourage everyone to attend a local government meeting or visit the Web site to learn more about what our government is doing.
As members of the League of Women Voters, we are continuously answering Madison’s call to action: We are working to keep our community fair, vibrant and strong — starting with having an open and transparent government.