Sunshine Week is important to the work we do at the Watauga Democrat, but its importance only begins there.
It’s important to your hometown newspaper because it offers us the opportunity to spotlight the necessity of an open government in helping us tell the stories we write.
But, it’s more important to you, our readers, because the stories we write directly affect the lives we live.
When it comes to our government, there is one commonality: It’s your government, and because of that you have a right to know.
A right — not a privilege. From the courthouse to the White House, you have the express right to know what your leaders are up to both before and after they’re up to it. Because at the end of the day, the actions those leaders take will not only affect your life in ways small and large — but you get to pay for it. After all, every dollar spent by a government entity comes from your pocket.
The upside of paying for those actions and decisions is broad … and should be transparent. Every document that lives in a government agency belongs to you. Access to those documents — and the meetings that often proceed them — is at your request.
It too often gets forgotten that government gets its powers and authorities directly from a public to which it is answerable. This is why, unfortunately, we need state and federal laws to protect our right to know.
Public institutional secrecy that goes beyond security is wrong in every instance, and this is the message that Sunshine Week rightly seeks to remind us of.
The government, after all, is not some anonymous entity that lives a life separate from our community.
In essence, we are the government and the government is us. As such, we have a right to know what our government is doing with full transparency.