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Our View: Government must be open to everyone
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This week highlights one of the main functions the Times and other newspapers work to fulfill every day - keeping an eye on government.

March 14-20 is national "Sunshine Week." It's a time to consider the fact that government must be open and accessible to the people who have elected our leaders, not just newspapers or other media forms.

We take pride in informing the public on issues the Monroe Common Council or Brodhead school board, for example, might be considering. But if not for laws requiring accessibility to their records and meetings, we would not be able to fulfill that function.

These organizations meet regularly and they must give notice, in public places, of their business. They must be as open as they can be, because they make decisions that impact the lives of their constituents.

But, open government laws don't just apply to boards and their meetings, they apply to their records, as well.

There are four bills being considered in the Wisconsin Legislature that would limit access to various records, including some online circuit court records. This week is a perfect time to let your legislators know they must maintain the utmost openness to public records.

Also, last week as a precursor to "Sunshine Week" the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council announced the winners of the Openness Awards, or Opees.

The council is comprised of members of the Wisconsin Associated Press, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

The group named Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen as its top political defender of openness, but perhaps more important to point out is the group's award to one man in Weyauwega, Daniel O. Wilson. He won two lawsuits claiming openness violations by the Weyauwega-Fremont school board. Wilson had no political clout, just determination and knowledge. Van Hollen's work to keep online court records open is good, but he has experience in the open government realm and a wealth of aides to help him make decisions. Wilson surely sought advice, but we doubt it was at the level Van Hollen must have had.

There were newspapers that received awards as well, but Wilson's achievement should stand as an example to all who feel their government isn't listening or might have something to hide.

We in the media fight for open government as often as we can, but remember this week that open government laws are there to protect access for all, not just those of us, like newspapers, that are paid to fight for it.