Today is National Freedom of Information Day -- March 16, James Madison's birthday -- and this is National Sunshine Week.
But as I said on our podcast yesterday, you wouldn't know that by looking at the work of America's state officials.
Utah's legislature has just turned back the clock on its entire concept of open government. In Tennessee, where I used to live, the governor is turning back the clock on the disclosure required by the top officials who work for him. And in Texas, some legislators want you to pay megabucks upfront to see public records and want to throw you in jail for up to a year if you blab about how the the guy running for City Council had a felony conviction on his record expunged 10 years ago. (Nevermind that whole, you know, First Amendment thing.)
It's time we stop the madness.
Today's featured video on the Texas Watchdog homepage is a clip from the folks at the Sunlight Foundation in Washington, D.C. They do an awful lot of work promoting government transparency at the federal level, but this time they're trying to raise awareness of transparency under siege at the state level.
They're trying to get people to sign an open letter to America's governors, calling on them to stop the transparency rollbacks in the states.
I've signed. If you really care about transparency and open government, I'm calling on you to do the same.
A few other notes on transparency, while I have you:
- Listen to more about the dire situation in Utah on our podcast episode for this week. You can listen through the player embedded in this page or use the player to download the audio to your iPod.
- I'm sure Utah and the other transparency problems in the states will be mentioned on this week's #FOIAchat on Twitter. That's 2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Central.
- And if you're wanting to know more about how to use open government laws, we'll be talking about that on the next episode of TrentTV, our free monthly Webinar on open government, airing at 12:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. Central Tuesday at texaswatchdog.org or newmediatv.org. Our topic will be getting and reviewing public officials' e-mails. More details coming in a separate blog post later today.
Spot a good video clip? We're always looking for clips to feature on our home page. If you've seen a good video on Texas government or politics, watchdog journalism or government accountability or transparency, shoot us a note at email@example.com. Broadcast journalists, feel free to toot your own horn and let us know what you're working on. The only requirement is that we have to be able to embed your video.