Editorial: Transparency benefits everyone

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM.

It’s Sunshine Week, the time every year when newspapers across America call attention to the importance of open meetings and public records laws in our free society.

These state and federal laws aren’t for newspaper, television and online reporters only. Everyone benefits from government openness, and transparency laws make it possible for you to know what goes on with your government.

These laws keep the public’s business public. They bring accountability to government. They encourage honesty and discourage corruption.

Because of North Carolina’s open meetings law, you can go to any county commissioners meeting, city council meeting, school board meeting or others to hear elected officials discuss issues of importance to you. You can see what votes are taken and how each elected official votes.

Because of the state’s public records law, you can find out who police arrest and on what charges. You can find out about the cleanliness of your favorite restaurant. You can research your family history through birth, marriage and death certificates, and through property transfer records.

The Freedom of Information Act ensures that you can secure reports and other documents from federal agencies.

Want to know if the FBI has a record on you? Make an FOI request and you will find out.

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