Your city council will vote to rezone your residential area in a way that could affect existing homes and your family. How do you find out what's going on?
Your school board wants to close schools for budget issues. How do you discover what schools and when?
A district court hears a case involving local residents that has attracted public interest. How do you or the news media reveal through court documents what the case is about and why it¹s important?
A candidate gets money to run for public office. How do you find out who gave, how much and why?
A local business needs access to government actions and records as part of offering goods or services. How and where does the business owner get that information?
The Oklahoma Public Records Act and Open Meeting Act are the keys handed to you and to news media to find these answers and more. When governments spend money, approve construction or allow residential changes, or when courts decide cases of public interest, these two laws shine public light on these actions and those who make these decisions.
Sunshine Week, March 10-16, is a nationwide initiative begun in 2005 and promoted by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It is meant to recognize that open records are a vital foundation to government. Public records inform you, directly and through the news media, what government does that affects you in the way you work and live.
FOI Oklahoma is a nonprofit organization committed to promote government openness in our state. We support Sunshine Week every year by telling the public why the Oklahoma Open Records Act and Open Meeting Act are important. We work with the Oklahoma Press Association and the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to hold statewide workshops for public officials about these laws. The workshops let city councils, school boards, county commissioners and other public officials know that it's important to follow these laws.
We also promote transparency through student essay contests, pledges from public officials and candidates to support transparency and recognition of those who advocate openness. We work with the Oklahoma Press Association to track legislation from the state Legislature that could limit or prevent your right to know. Our Black Hole Award puts the spotlight on those who keep you and the news media from seeing what government does and why.
Join us in Sunshine Week to emphasize your right to open government and transparency. We need openness in government now more than ever.
Hickman is FOI¹s communications chairman, and Moore is executive director.