The clock is trying to tell you something.
Over the weekend, you probably — make that, better have — set your clocks ahead one hour to usher in the season of Daylight Saving Time. As anyone who has not lived in a subterranean biosphere knows, the loss of an hour’s sleep is the price we pay to get more sunshine during our evening hours.
And a little more light is exactly the purpose of Sunshine Week, which begins today across Pennsylvania.
Sunshine Week was established 14 years ago by the American Society of News Editors to spotlight the importance of open government as wells the dangers of unmerited secrecy.
As journalists, we embrace Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, and attempt to remind government boards that they should be doing the same. Too often — and “too often” is defined here as even one occurrence — boards and councils attempt to bar the public from the public’s business, whether it be to avoid fielding uncomfortable questions from the people they represent, or to shield their own district or municipality from taking a black eye due to some sort of miscreant behavior.
This, of course, is unacceptable. If the public is paying the taxes that fund the district or municipality, as well as pay the salaries for office holders and employees, then they should be informed about not only what moves their elected officials make, but also why they were made.
And while the media is certainly a major line of defense to guard against miscarriage of fiduciary responsibility, it is not solely our purview. It’s yours as well.
Sadly, we see more folks turning to the rumors and scuttlebutt served up through social media than making an effort to get the facts first hand. Public meetings are just that — public. You have every right to be there and to question those you elected. When was the last time you went? Or is it just easier to go to Facebook and find out what others think went on, rather than what actually did?
Granted, few folks can get to Harrisburg to attend House and Senate meetings. However, The News today is running a special page with contact information for our local legislators, so you are better able to reach out to them with your thoughts.
And should a government entity stonewall you, you — like the media — may file a Right to Know Request to pursue information that may belong to you but to which you’ve been denied access. A form that you can download accompanies this editorial.
And like New Year’s Day, Sunshine Week is not only a time for celebration, but also for resolving to improve what we already have. We have called multiple times for revision the Sunshine Law provision that allows boards to deny the public details about employee resignations, dismissals or suspensions under the guise of a personnel executive session.
Similarly, some lawmakers are looking to add more transparency to when it comes to collective bargaining agreements. The Erie Times-News reported last month that the salaries of government and public school employees are negotiated between government leaders and union representatives behind closed doors, without the public knowing what they’re paying for. Two Erie area lawmakers plan to introduce one bill that would require those collective bargaining agreements to be made public two weeks before they're signed so the public can offer its thoughts, and another would subject contract negotiations to Pennsylvania's 'Sunshine Act' and 'Right to Know' law.
They’re ideas we support. If you do as well, contact your legislators and tell them to do the same.
Daylight Saving Time is simply not enough. Insist on more sunshine in government as well.