Sunshine Week's message needed

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By Dave Bell

If ever there was a year to observe Sunshine Week in Illinois, this is it.

The week, which runs March 15-21, is set aside each year to raise awareness about the importance of openness in government.

It’s a promotion that’s led by journalists, but it should be embraced by all citizens who care about holding their government representatives accountable. Rather than having those representatives cutting back-room deals and operating in the shadows, Sunshine Week encourages the activities of government to be conducted in the open – in full sunshine, so to speak.

Here in Illinois, that openness theme should resonate with everyone after the debacle we’ve endured with our former governor. Rod Blagojevich didn’t get the openness idea. He didn’t like people knowing what was going on behind closed doors. And, as the wiretaps of his telephone conversations showed, his public image was quite different than what he did in private. That arrogance and lack of accountability was what ultimately led to his arrest on corruption charges and subsequent impeachment.

So that’s why we support efforts like Sunshine Week. We believe that an open system of government is a better system. We believe that political representatives who are accountable to their constituents act more responsibly. And we believe that informed citizens are better citizens.

As we wrote in this space two weeks ago, we’re encouraged by Gov. Pat Quinn’s support of openness and ethical behavior by those who represent us in Springfield. He has directed those representatives to comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and has affirmed the “right of the people to transparency in government.” We hope that commitment continues.

Meanwhile, let the sun shine in.