State's Sunshine Laws Found Lacking

In this update: 1. New study shows room for improvement in open government laws 2. Judicial Independence Project crisscrosses state, more events to come 3. Do newspapers matter? State's Sunshine Laws Found Lacking 

Email date: 3/18/09

In this update:
1. New study shows room for improvement in open government laws
2. Judicial Independence Project crisscrosses state, more events to come
3. Do newspapers matter?

Depression-era Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said "sunshine is the best disinfectant." Indeed, good sunshine laws are the citizenry’s first line of defense when it comes to keeping government clean, open and honest.

A new top-to-bottom assessment of open government laws in Wisconsin and four other Midwest states shows that the laws here are generally strong but also reveals some conspicuous shortcomings.

The report was prepared by the Illinois-based Citizen Advocacy Center for the Midwest Democracy Network, of which the Democracy Campaign is a founding member, and was issued today in recognition of Sunshine Week.

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Public affairs television network WisconsinEye, the state’s version of C-SPAN, was on hand at last week’s judicial election forum in Milwaukee and is airing complete coverage of the event. Another forum was held Monday in Green Bay. To read coverage by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, go here.

Many more forums are planned as part of WDC’s Judicial Independence Project, including two more later this month in Green Bay, another in Milwaukee, and events in Madison, Eau Claire and Lake Mills. For a complete listing and information about each event, go here.

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We blogged not too long ago about hard times in the newspaper industry and in a recent E-Lert we linked to an article warning that as we say goodbye to newspapers we’ll likely be saying hello to more government corruption.

If there are still any questions about the value of newspapers to our society and our democracy, a Princeton University study of what happened in the wake of the closure of The Cincinnati Post ought to put those to rest.

It was just announced that Seattle will soon lose one of its daily newspapers. This story is being repeated all across the country. Maybe nonprofit initiatives like Pro Publica or similar efforts closer to home like the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism can help fill the growing void. Let’s hope and pray so.