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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunshine rights must be enforced by all

Local news media and others interested in the media will be busy this week commemorating Sunshine Week, a time devoted to raising community awareness about the need for openness in government.

Most folks undoubtedly would agree that openness is a good thing. After all, they'll say, those guys are spending my money; shouldn't I be able to know how and why it is being spent?

But people are busy. There's little time for worrying about issues such as access to public records or open meetings.

And after all, the news media are watching things fairly closely, aren't they?

It's true. The media are in the forefront of the fight for access to government information and meetings. It is their business to do so. But ultimately, the responsibility must ride on the shoulders of every citizen, every taxpayer.

History has taught us that the first thing any totalitarian government attempts to do is to control and hide information. Information is power.

Now, no one suggests that government in Hawai'i is in any way totalitarian, or even would become so if given the chance. But this is so, in part, because citizens do have a say in what government does and how it spends their money.

This role for citizens must not be taken lightly. It is more than your right to have access to information about what your government is up to it is your duty.