Today marks the beginning of “Sunshine Week,” a celebration of the public’s right to access information.
The Iowa Freedom of Information Council is reminding state lawmakers of the importance of government transparency. Randy Evans, who heads the council, says Iowans should know their right to information and remind government officials that they work for the people.
“What we need are officials who recognize they are going to work in a goldfish bowl,” Evans says. “They’re not going to be working in an office with the door locked and the shades drawn.”
Iowa places towards the middle nationally when it comes to government transparency. Evans says a bright spot for government accessibility is the Iowa Public Information Board, which was created by the legislature in 2012. This board allows citizens to address concerns about open meetings and records laws, without hiring a lawyer.
Evans is using the week to remind public officials that a higher level of transparency is part of the territory that comes with holding elected office. “They are working for the people of Iowa,” Evans says. “The people of Iowa are not working for the government entities. These government bodies are public bodies. They are not private. They are not a private business, they are not a private school.”
Evans adds, it’s the public’s responsibility to keep itself informed. He says the best time for people to get involved is not when an important matter is at stake, but rather by staying engaged with local issues.
(Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)