Thursday, April 05, 2007

The battle against government secrecy

Why should you care about Pennsylvania's Open Records law?

Does it matter that your elected state legislators gave out $4 million in secret bonuses to their staffers?

Did you want to know about the $900,000 spent by the state's student-loan agency on luxury trips and other perks for its employees and their spouses?

Should the governor of Pennsylvania be negotiating with foreign-owned companies to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

Is it important to know that more than 3,000 state employees earn more than $100,000 a year?

Do you trust government to do what's in the best interest of the people of Pennsylvania?

Access to public records is crucial in a democracy. It's one of the best ways to make government accountable to the people.

Pennsylvania has one of the worst open records laws in the country. In essence, all government records are considered private unless a citizen can prove in court that the information should be made public.

That's not right. All public records should be easily accessible to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. The government should have the burden of proving that records should be kept private.

Pennsylvania residents have a new ally in the fight against government secrecy.

The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition is made up of journalists, librarians, attorneys, educators and community advocates.

The coalition has a new Web site that serves as a clearing house for open records information.

The site is

You'll find all kinds of useful information to gain access to records kept by local and state government.

The site also has the full texts of Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Act and a guide to submitting requests for public records.

The nonprofit coalition is also willing to help citizens obtain legal representation in open government cases.

You can contribute to the coalition to help defray its costs. You should also write to your state lawmakers and demand a better Open Records law in Pennsylvania.

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