by Jan Largent
Sunshine Week is a nationwide effort to create dialogue on the importance of transparency in government, freedom of information, and open government at all levels. Sunshine Week centers around the birthday of James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S. and author of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sunshine Week has been celebrated each year since 2005, and it is scheduled for the week of March 11-17 this year.
The Stillwater League has been celebrating Sunshine Week for the last few years by asking Payne County elected officials and those running for offices to sign a pledge supporting open government. By signing, they agree that they and their public bodies will comply with the letter and spirit of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws. The pledge can be read at the FOI Oklahoma website, where a lot of other very helpful information about Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws can be found, including this Your Right to Know video produced by OETA.
A healthy democracy requires a public that is knowledgeable about government processes and policies. Participation and commitment are measures of that health. There are many ways that citizens can participate in creating a healthy democracy: voting, attending town meetings or public hearings, serving on local and state boards and commissions, running for office, participating in political parties, being active members of organizations like the League of Women Voters, or just by staying informed. If you would like to learn more about Sunshine Week activities and find tools for participating, visit the Sunshine Week website.