This is "Sunshine Week,"
a nationwide effort to focus on open government — or the lack of it. The perfect emblem for the issue was posted by Seattle Times
political reporter David Postman: a heavily redacted
document from Gary Locke's office in 2004. Reminds me of the stuff I used to see in Rick Anderson's in-box at Seattle Weekly
Needless to say, sunshine is often eclipsed. (And that's when you actually get
a document; a new report
indicates that many federal agencies are slooooow to get you the docs in the first place, despite a presidential order to clear out the backlogs.)
The Washington Coalition for Open Government
responded to Sunshine Week by distributing an insert in the Times
last week. It covers the basics of public disclosure laws and how to get public documents. This short-course in sunshine is aimed at high school students, but it's an excellent primer on the topic for everyone. It's available on their Web site
The national sunshine celebration has local components as well. On Wednesday, March 19, there will be a national webcast called "Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know
." The participants are former GOP congressman Mickey Edwards of the Aspen Institute, Ann Beeson, formerly of the ACLU and now with the Open Society Institute, and former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, now of the Center for American Progress.
That webcast will be augmented by local panels. Here, you can see the national webcast at the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington at 10 a.m. followed at 11:40 a.m. by a local panel on sunshine — or the lack of it — in Washington. I'll be on the panel along with Michele Earl-Hubbard of the Allied Law Group
. She's an expert on media and public records law and was one of the attorneys that assisted the Weekly
when I was editor there. She really knows her stuff. The event is hosted by the University of Washington Libraries and is sponsored by the Law Librarians of Puget Sound, the Washington State Library, and the Washington Coalition for Open Government. It's free, open to the public, and unredacted.
At the same time, the Washington Coalition will also be hosting the webcast and a follow-up panel of big guns at the KCTS studios
featuring Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, State Rep. and House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, Secretary of state Sam Reed, state Auditor Brian Sontag and others.
I've written a couple of times on Crosscut about sunshine issues, including Tom Carr's controversial appointment
to the state's new "Sunshine Committee" and a story on sunshine loopholes
. Despite progress, I don't think Washington is yet a place where the sunshine is so bright that any of us is breaking out the sunglasses.
UPDATE: Michele Earl-Hubbard is busy celebrating Sunshine Week by filing lawsuits for violations of the state's open meetings law