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Sunshine Week ’09 – It’s Downright “Transparent”



March 16, 2009

Seattle, WA – This is Sunshine Week, an annual reminder about the importance of open government. From March 15 to March 22, Washington voters are being encouraged to let their elected officials know they're being watched – probably more closely this year than ever.

Most Americans do not use tools such as the Freedom of Information Act, but they believe they are important in order to keep government open and honest. A poll commissioned by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and released March 13 found that more than 50 percent of those surveyed believe their local government is "open," but not the federal government. In fact, 74 percent of the respondents called the feds "secretive" – up from 62 percent in a similar poll taken in 2007.

The Obama Administration says it's committed to greater "transparency," so a lot more information already is available online, according to Nancy Eitreim, Seattle, who serves on the national board of the League of Women Voters.

"It means that in the last bills that were passed, information about the earmarks - their sponsors, where they're going, who's getting them and who the contractors are - will be on the Internet."

The survey also found that 79 percent of respondents believe President Obama did the right thing on his first day in office by ordering all federal agencies to presume their information is public. Eitreim suggests looking at www.OpenTheGovernment.org and www.WhiteHouse.gov.

No matter what the Obama Administration does to improve government transparency, voters must do their part, too, Eitreim stresses. That means reading information and then voicing opinions about it, she says.

"Our democracy really depends on our citizens participating in government. Dig deeper! Go to the library, get online, write a letter or a note or a postcard. After you've done it once, you feel a whole lot better."

The full survey, done by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, is available at www.sunshineweek.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA
 

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