An editorial from The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There was a time not so long ago last winter when if you heard mention of Sunshine Week, it got your attention.
We ’re hoping it still does today as the sun rises on spring. But more specifically, the Sunshine Week we refer to began Sunday, and is a national initiative to promote open government and freedom of information.
Its purpose is to remind everyone what their government is doing in their name — for good and not so good.
Our newspaper and hundreds of other news media, libraries, nonprofits, civic groups and others who advocate for the public’s right to know are the chief participants in Sunshine Week.
However, without the interest of the millions of citizens in this country, we might as well turn out the lights and pull the blinds.
The lawmaking ability of government sometimes does get the public’s attention, especially when it concerns certain hot button issues.
Our newspaper is also second to none in speaking out against all threats to our First Amendment rights.
But, over the years one subject we’ve found more often than not eventually gets the public’s attention: How their money is spent.
Sure, the public cares about government secrecy, spying, back door deals, cover-ups and down and dirty politics.
But, whether it’s a municipal budget for $3.675 million or one for $25.3 million, that community is curious.
How contracts for everything from emergency communications towers to repaving a street are awarded always piques a lot of people’s interest.
We also pay attention to who’s pocketing that money.
Salaries for everyone from university basketball coaches to school superintendents and school teachers are always bones of contention, too.
Finally, how money influences elections, how the value of property is assessed and a scad of other fiscal notes we all need to know.
Of course, open meetings, Freedom of Information Act requests and other transparency issues are high on our agenda, too.
The point, is these issues need to be on everyone’s radar.
Government is much more accountable and operates more efficiently and honestly if we’re paying attention.
Within weeks, everyone will be reminded of the county, state and federal government for weeks.
Mid-term campaign signs will be appearing on every street corner, and advertising on our pages and in other media will be everywhere.
This is the perfect time to ask candidates, both incumbents and their challengers, their position on government transparency.
As voters and taxpayers, it is vitally important the sun also shine on our government.