Celebrate sunshine

? Let?s make sure our public officials conduct public business in a public arena.

With the recent change to Daylight Saving Time, it couldn?t be a better time to celebrate National Sunshine Week, a time for the citizens of Kansas to recommit themselves to the ideals of open government.

National Sunshine Week is March 15 through 21. Why should Kansans care about this? Because, unfortunately, there are dozens of incidents where public officials have fallen far short of what state law requires.

The Kansas Press Associa?tion?s 240 member newspapers try to do their part to make sure public bodies are following the law, but they need your help. Citizens who take their democratic form of government seriously can provide effective oversight when they attend meetings, seek records or simply observe their governmental officials in action.

Do your local public bodies give proper notice of their meetings? When they do meet, do they discuss policy issues in public or do they seem to have their minds made up when the meeting begins? Do they resort to executive sessions and discuss issues that aren?t allowed under the Kansas Open Meetings Act exclusions? Do they ever vote outside the meeting room?

The Kansas Open Meetings Act and the Kansas Open Records Act say that meetings and records of public bodies should be open to the public. And, in the vast majority of cases, elected and appointed officials carry out their duties conscientiously.

Yet there are some who don?t believe they owe the public anything, that they can meet when they want, where they want, often without telling their constituents about it at all.

They are wrong.

?Sunshine? is a perfect description of how government should operate. It means that the public?s business is discussed thoroughly in public, with the public?s participation, and it means decisions are never made behind closed doors without the public?s knowledge or input.

Please do what you can to make sure your local governmental bodies are playing by the rules.

?Doug Anstaett, executive director, Kansas Press Association

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