The citizens of Wyoming were the beneficiaries one week ago when the Wyoming Senate rejected a bill that would have limited government transparency.

By a 20-9 vote, Senate File 17, a bill sponsored by the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, would have allowed cities, towns, counties and school districts to only place public notice information on their own websites.

Unfortunately, much of the discussions seemed focused on how the state’s newspapers would be impacted if those notices were moved online. The issue should never be about saving money, but how to best keep the public informed in a unbiased manner.

This week, March 14-20, is Sunshine Week, an initiative launched in 2005 by the News Leaders Association, to promote openness in government.

Whenever elected officials are reluctant to have their actions fully exposed to the public, a light needs to be shown on their actions. That is why this initiative is labeled “Sunshine.”

Lack of transparency always raises questions, “Is there something your elected officials don’t want you to know about? Is something untoward happening here?”

Transparency means those you elected to represent you are held accountable for their actions. Transparency means meetings that impact you are open to the public. Records, including meeting minutes, salaries, ordinances and more are readily available for your inspection.

That means you need to have available records kept in an unbiased method of how your elected officials voted.

In regards to Senate File 17, area Sens. R.J. Kost (R-Powell) and Ed Cooper (R-Ten Sleep) voted for more transparency in government by opposing the bill. Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) voted for the measure.

President Abraham Lincoln called our system “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Last week, the people of Wyoming were assured the right for the time being to hold their elected officials accountable. 

 

(1) comment

Vincent Vanata

It was hard not to read this editorial without a smile. Unfortunately, this editorial is biased, and in my opinion, duplicitous. No doubt the Cody Enterprise and many newspapers throughout the state of Wyoming are breathing a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, it continues to be at the expense of the state, counties, municipalities, school districts, and ultimately, the taxpayers.

Current laws require governmental entities to “publish” minutes of meetings and titles of ordinances passed to be posted; contents; posting of salary information of specified officials and employees. Posting of proceedings; posting of salary information of certain officials and employees.

Was the impetus of SF017 to limit government transparency? I think not. I believe it was to relieve those governmental entities the burden of subsidizing newspapers. And why not?

Those governmental entities all maintain websites to allow the public to easily access those things particular to their needs. Adding those necessary requirements to be posted on the internet and removing the published in a newspaper requirement removes a significant cost to the impacted entities.

SF017 would have made a more cost-effective means of being transparent while providing a readily available source for the public. Now, we the taxpayers, must continue to see finite taxpayer dollars paid to newspapers to publish public information.

The Cody Enterprise asked the following questions: “Is there something your elected officials don’t want you to know about? Is something untoward happening here?”

My questions are: “Is there something our local newspapers don’t want us to know about? Is something untoward happening here?”

It’s very obvious the real concern about this bill was not about the legislature restricting information. It was about the legislature cutting the purse-strings from privately owned businesses, the newspapers.

In an article in the Sheridan Press, Senator Kost said that, while the state should continue to discuss the possibility of moving public notices online, now was not the time to make the move. “I really feel like … maybe we start talking about it,” Kost said. “But right now, it’s imperative that we … respect those older people … Let’s honor them by allowing them to sit down with that cup of coffee and read those minutes or whatever else they need to read.”

I believe the editorial should have ended with the following: Area Senators R.J. Kost (R-Powell) and Ed Cooper (R-Ten Sleep) voted to continue subsidizing newspapers by opposing the bill. Senator Tim French (R-Powell) voted to rein in wasteful spending of taxpayer funds.

Just my thoughts, thanks for the space to express them.

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