Let's hear it for these pols

I'm passionate about open government. About what it means to our country. About what it means to citizens and to democracy.

Working at the Virginia Coalition for Open Government for over a decade, I've met a lot of other people whose passion for open government's ideal far exceeds mine. Most often these are everyday citizens. Sometimes they are reporters, editors, broadcasters.

And more and more often, the folks I'm hearing from -- the ones whose commitment to open government is so strong it's almost palpable -- are elected officials.

That politicians are passionate about open government ideals is not a trend. There have always been dedicated souls who believe that the government's best work is done in the open.

What I would say is a trend, though, is the increase in the number of these folks are calling VCOG to talk.

In the last month alone, I've heard from a city council member, two school board members, a library board member, a community services board member, someone on a county board of supervisors and a state legislator.

One caller wanted to talk about releasing records that he knew could be exempt under FOIA. One person was dismayed at his public body's choice of meeting room because it did not have adequate seating for the public.

The rest of the callers found themselves at odds with others on their public bodies over whether certain things should be discussed in closed session or out in the open. These callers felt their public bodies were being too secretive, and they were finding out that the disagreement over whether to talk in the open or in closed session was hampering important decisions from being made.

They called VCOG, I think, for reassurance that there are people out there -- the citizens and organizations who are VCOG dues-paying members -- who believe that when it's a close call, when maintaining confidentiality is allowable, but not necessarily good, the tie goes to openness.

Supporting an elected official's pursuit of openness is not the same thing as supporting his or her position on any given issue.

In online comments criticizing VCOG's opposition to a particular closed meeting, VCOG was called a "partisan organization." Yes, we are partisan, if by partisan you mean we are prejudiced in favor of a particular cause: that of open government.

But truth is, it doesn't matter what to me position they have on a particular issue, and most often I do not even know what the issue is! Is the development good or bad? Should that administrator be retained or fired? Should a locality purchase a piece of land or not?

I don't know. What I do know is that whatever position these officials are taking, they are taking them in public and they want their colleagues to make them in public, too.

So for this Sunshine Week, my hat is off to the public officials who are pushing their public bodies into the sunlight. They deserve our support.

Call me!

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