Editorial: Keep the sun shining on your government
Rain may be falling, but this is Sunshine Week regardless of the weather. Sunshine Week is the nationwide celebration of your access to public information — especially government information — and what this access means for you and your community.
The theme for 2019 sums it up nicely: "It's your right to know."
That's right, it's your right. You have the same rights to public information that any member of the press has. Some people don't realize that and think they need a journalist to request information.
The American Society of News Editors launched Sunshine Week in 2005 to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights, which comprises the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and was ratified in 1791.
The First Amendment is in many ways the broadest and certainly the most well known amendment. It reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
But what about the other nine? At a glance, they are:
The Second Amendment — the right to bear arms
The Third Amendment — housing troops
The Fourth Amendment — search and seizure
The Fifth Amendment — the rights of the accused, due process and eminent domain
The Sixth Amendment — fair and speedy trials
The Seventh Amendment — jury trials
The Eighth Amendment — bails, fines, and punishments
The Ninth Amendment — liberties of citizens
The Tenth Amendment — the rights of the states
In many ways, the First and the Ninth amendments compliment each other. The First states five specific rights while the Ninth makes it clear that citizens' rights and liberties don't end with the First Amendment or even the Constitution. The Ninth reads:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This nation, this state and this community are of, by and for the people. Always. Even when those rights — including the right to public information — aren't spelled out.
We invite you to keep your government operating openly and transparently in the sunshine this week and every week of the year.