Sunshine week, celebrated nationwide, is dedicated to open government, with events surrounding Freedom of Information and government transparency. Sunshine Week 2008 this year includes some great talks happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country, all focused on the concept of government openness. Yesterday was the National Freedom of Information Day, held on James Madison’s birthday; Madison was a supporter of government openness.
I attended the First Amendment Center’s Freedom of Information Conference on Friday, where there were great panels talking about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and how publicly useful information is often unavailable. One compelling example of this is information suppressed about public infrastructure, like dams and bridges. As one conference participant asked: “What, are you going to hide a dam?”
The FOIA is an important tool for government transparency, but a growing number of Americans see the government as incresasingly secretive, according to a Sunshine Week poll. On a hopeful note, though, almost 90% of respondents said that open government was an important consideration in their presidential and congressional candidates. Maybe the candidates will get the message and we can get to fixing FOIA.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the Sunshine Week events here in D.C., especially Sunlight Foundation’s event with Lawrence Lessig, and other events in D.C.