This week has been Sunshine Week, a time to once again reflect on the importance of transparency in government’s dealings, especially when it comes to how taxpayer dollars are used.
On the whole, we don’t find much fault with our local city councils, school districts or county government. In fact, there have been two recent examples where the will of the people prevailed over what might have been an opposite outcome were it not for transparency and accountability.
Last May when Porterville City Council was considering adopting a resolution supporting the Federal government in its lawsuit against California regarding SB 54 — the “Sanctuary State” Bill — a large demonstration was held in front of City Hall preceding the meeting, and more than 20 community members spoke out against the resolution during public comment.
In the end the resolution was voted down, and many feel that public response had a great deal to do with it.
The Council chambers in Lindsay have been packed in recent meetings as residents have been paying close attention to the City’s ongoing disagreement with the Chamber of Commerce regarding how the Friday Night Market is being operated. The City wants a change of location and a new operator for the market, but pushback from the community has been significant, with most dissenting voices saying they like the market at its current location. That matter is still being resolved.
In both these cases, the outcome may have been inconsistent with the wishes of residents if we didn’t have the assurance of a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation on how our communities are run.
That assurance comes from laws like the Sunshine Act of 1976, which requires that Federal agencies made up of governing bodies conduct their meetings open to public observation.
Members of the press rely heavily on this assurance to observe such meetings and report to their community, but newspapers across the country are currently facing the huge challenge of trying to deliver such news effectively with dwindling subscription rates and thousands of journalists leaving the industry in recent years.
Despite challenges, we here at the Recorder are encouraged to see the concept of “government by the people, for the people” embodied in these two recent examples. We will continue to ensure that the “sun shines” on our local government agencies with our coverage, and we encourage community members to pick up a paper and read about what they are doing — you might just learn about something you take exception with and want to speak up about it.
It is everyone’s duty — not just the media’s — to hold our governments accountable and to ensure what they do is for the people and by the people.