By Chris Faulknor
This week, we celebrate Sunshine Week.
You probably can’t hear the glee in my voice as you read that last line, but trust me, it’s there.
To the journalistic world, Sunshine Week is the epitomy of what we stand for and what we do.
Sunshine week is our Morel Mushroom Festival, our Polish Festival, our Horton Bay Bridge Walk.
It is our chance to hold our heads high and say, “This is who we are, what we stand for, and why we’re not in a cushy public relations job for a large corporation.”
Sunshine week celebrates the rights we have as citizens to know what our government is doing.
In honor of that, I’m going to suggest a couple of fine ways in which you can let the sun shine in on your local municipalities.
1. You have a right to attend any government meeting–anywhere–ever. They can not force you to identify yourself, they can not force you to state a purpose for being there, and they can not say it’s too crowded. They may go into closed session for some very specific reasons, but they have to open the meeting back up before any decision may be made.
2. You may speak and not be silenced. Each board has a policy on public comment, and as long as you follow it, they must allow you to speak. You may have to stay within a reasonable time constraint and you can’t turn a meeting into a riot; but, they must let you speak.
3. You have a right to request any documents you wish. They must allow you to inspect any document you wish unless they have a specific and legal reason to keep it private (for example, my request for the City Manager’s social security number would be denied, because Mike Cain didn’t sign on to have his identity stolen.) If they do deny your request, they must tell you why, and if there is other information in the document, they must provide it (and black out the rest, of course)
4. You have a right to appeal ANY of these decisions to a higher board or eventually the Circuit Court. Basically, “no” doesn’t have to mean “no,” at least not quite yet.
5. You have a right to disseminate that information to anyone you wish (that right keeps Ben and I in business, by the way). They can not provide you with a document with the understanding that you’ll keep it to yourself. They can not punish you for spreading the word about what you feel is an injustice.
In the end, it is up to you.
It is up to you as a citizen to keep our government accountable.
We at The Boyne City Gazette take our role in that–the role of keeping you informed and in the loop–very seriously.
We strive to give you the information necessary to be an active and informed citizen.
When a potential marina deal between the City of Boyne City and Devlon’s parent company went south behind closed doors, you found out by reading The Boyne City Gazette.
When a local school board didn’t display a line item budget at their meeting, The Boyne City Gazette stepped in, deciding that one would be useful to the public.
When the City Commission formed a citizens committee to work on the Kirtland issue and considered doing so behind closed doors, The Boyne City Gazette stood up for your right to know.
This is sunshine week–our chance to celebrate our role in keeping our government accountable.
This is what newspapers have been about for hundreds of years.
Happy sunshine week from a newspaper that plans to shed light well into the future.