In my career as a journalist, I have encountered many public officials who respect government openness and transparency. There was the state records custodian who turned over dozens of her boss’s embarrassing emails after telling him that keeping them secret would violate the law. And the university staffers who pointed me to public information the school tried to keep out of the public eye. And the local elected official who told me what happened in a closed session she thought may have been illegally closed. As we approach this year’s annual celebration of Sunshine Week, March 11-17, it’s worth recalling times when people entrusted with our tax dollars have stood up for our right to know.
Among the many remarkable things about the defeat of the proposed overhaul of the Wisconsin Public Records Law over the July 4 weekend last summer was the way the media, open government groups, advocacy organizations on the left and right, and the public coalesced to point out how ill-conceived the idea was.
On issues of government openness, Gov. Scott Walker’s record has been mixed. He is not running the most open administration in history, as he pledged in an interview late last year, but he’s certainly not in a bunker.
Next week is Sunshine Week — time to celebrate open government in Wisconsin. A guest column by Mark Pitsch, assistant city editor at the Wisconsin State Journal and a member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.