Thursday, February 19, 2009

Missouri Sunshine Coalition designed to promote open government

One common misconception, promoted by elected officials who would prefer to conduct the people's business behind closed doors, is that Missouri's Sunshine Law and other such similar laws across the U. S. are there solely for the media. And many legislators, suffering from the same mindset, give lip service to tough open meetings laws while at the same time making sure that business continues to go on as usual because no one ever gets punished for violating them.

The truth, as non-journalists who have fought unsuccessfully over the years to either receive information or to watch as decisions are being made, is that these laws are there for all of the people, not just journalists.

Missouri is one of the last states to form an organization designed to promote the people's right to access to the decision-making process and to documents that arise from that process:

A new organization for people who want to promote government openness at all levels in Missouri will hold a public reception and program on Thursday, March 12, in Columbia. The event is free. The Missouri Sunshine Coalition is seeking individual and organization members from all areas of the public. It will hold a 2 p.m. reception and 3 p.m. program at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at MU.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster will speak at the 3 p.m. program. Other speakers will be Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Center, which is based at the School of Journalism; and Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The group's founders have met three times to elect a board of directors, to approve bylaws and a mission statement, and to plan the March 12 program. On Jan. 15 the group elected Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, president.

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