Archive for Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Views from Kansas: Transparency requires action

March 13, 2018

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Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a new feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

In recent years, the buzzword in politics has been “transparency.” Just about everyone has jumped on the transparency bandwagon.

Our legislators certainly have been talking about it. Only a month ago, our new governor signed a number of executive orders demanding more transparency from the state agencies that report to him. Candidates for office are promising, if elected of course, more of it as well.

This week is Sunshine Week in the United States, a time set aside each year to remind citizens how important transparency and open government are to our participatory democracy.

With all this talk about transparency, you would think Americans would have the kind of information we need to make rational decisions. However, at times it seems we are all drowning in a sea of misinformation, alternative facts and fake news.

None of us is quite sure what, or whom, to believe any more. Our response to this overabundance of information, unfortunately, has been to narrow our sources to just those cable news outlets, websites, newspapers and networks that reinforce our previously held beliefs.

Almost all of us do that. We retweet only those comments that conform to our agenda. We share memes on Facebook that demonize those who think differently. Sometimes, it seems like there is just too much to absorb, so we do what we can to silence all the chatter. We simply tune out.

In his mid-19th century book “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at how Americans relied on one another, rather than royalty, to chart the course for our nation.

Our system of self-government is rather unique in the world, but it places a premium on an informed citizenry to make it work properly.

This is becoming more difficult all the time. Frankly, we can’t even agree on a common set of facts about many subjects, which makes it difficult to sit down, discuss issues and come to decisions that reflect the common good.

Why is “sunshine” important?

“Publicity,” said Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants, electric light the most efficient policeman.”

If we are to remain a free nation and able to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century, citizens must be well informed. One way to help is for government to be open and transparent.

But we as citizens must play our part as well. We must be willing to widen the horizons of what we read, listen to those who have different opinions and make sure all voices become part of the discussion.

That is true transparency.

Comments

Barbara Johnston 1 month, 1 week ago

Yes! We need more sunshine/transparency in Kansas! And there is a need to act. On March 25, two Kansas City Star reporters, Laura Bauer and Max Londberg, will lead a discussion on the newspaper's findings for its series on secrecy in Kansas. Discussion will include findings on lack of transparency in the Division of Children and Families, and the "gut and go" practice in the legislature. March 25, 9:30am, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lawrence, 1263 W. 1100 Road, 785 842 3339. No cost, public invited.

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