Sunshine Day

Here's a great idea from Florida. Having wrestled with dozens of public agencies over getting access to "public" information, it would be great to see this take hold across the country:

Newspapers across the state sent a unified message to their readers on Sunday: Keep the doors to Florida's government open.

Known as Sunshine Sunday, it's the day when Florida's reporters remind residents that transparent government isn't just about lobbyists and politicians. It's about the taxpayers who pay for government business.

To send this message, about 50 newspapers statewide printed editorials, cartoons and columns promoting the issue. They were also frank about some of the state's problems, which came to light during a statewide test by the First Amendment Foundation.

The nonprofit group, which promotes free press and speech, enlisted auditors in every county to make public records requests. They found that 42 percent of the 220 government agencies audited violated the law in some way, several state newspapers reported.

This is an especially important issue in the Bush era, which has done everything it can to clamp down on the public's right to know. As Public Citizen points out:

From the first days of his administration, President Bush has taken steps to tighten the government's hold on information and limit public scrutiny of its activities. Expansive assertions of executive privilege, restrictive views of the Freedom of Information Act, increasing use of national security classification, stonewalling in response to congressional requests for information - all these were evident even before the September 11 attacks. Since then, the clamps on information have only tightened.

Sunshine Day, Every Day -- and everywhere!