The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 18, 2013

Our View: Too many ‘clouds’

— At the end of  Sunshine Week, a national effort to promote government transparency and openness, here’s the good news.

The public is making more requests of its federal government than ever before, and in turn the government stepped up its responses.

But wait. According to The Associated Press, an increasing number of responses provide little in the way of information. Instead, the federal government is denying more requests than ever, citing security as the reason.

 So how are we doing closer to home?

 City, county and school district boards, university boards, courts, police and fire departments are among those government bodies holding records often needed by the public.

 In our view, a simple request is all it should take to get a copy of most records. We don’t think Missouri’s open records/open meetings law intended for the public to have to file an open records request in order to get a copy of a traffic accident or board minutes. Yet we know it happens. In fact, some government entities now make it a matter of course to require individuals to file an open records request before they release anything to the public.

 We are also troubled by public boards that routinely cite closed meetings at their end of their public agendas and list the three exemptions whereby the law will allow them to talk about public business behind closed doors. Real estate negotiations, personnel records and litigation are all allowed as closed-door subjects under the law. But the intention of the law is to specify which of those the board intends to discuss. It shouldn’t be used as a “cover all occasions” tool.

By the way, while the law says boards can meet in secret to discuss the items exempted from the law, it does not imply that they have to.  

Finally, we are concerned by the costs and the difficulty that the public encounters when asking for documents that ultimately they have already paid for with their tax money. It shouldn’t take thousands of dollars and an attorney to make an open records request.

Missouri’s law says, “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.” And sections of the Sunshine Law “shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.”

It’s a law that is supposed to be on the side of the people.

Let’s keep the doors open and the sun shining through.


Text Only
  • Our View.jpg Our view: Street smarts

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    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: No time to turn away

    With the shooting down of a commercial airliner over Ukraine and fighting that has now escalated to a ground war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, it would be easy for most U.S. citizens to throw up their hands and turn their backs.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Amendment 5 is deception of the highest order

    Amendment 5, sponsored by Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, “relating to the right of Missouri citizens to keep and bear arms” provides that “any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

    July 21, 2014

  • Our View: Vote no on Amendment 1

    Proponents of Amendment 1 — the Right to Farm Act — have not made their case. We’ve met with advocates of this amendment to the Missouri constitution and listened to their arguments, but we don’t believe they have adequately answered the central question: Who is it protecting, and from what?

    July 13, 2014

  • Your View: Power to defend

    The Globe’s editorial ‘More guns not the answer’ (July 15) was saturated with classic progressive blather.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your View: Thanks for the generosity

    Generally, all we hear about is the bad news, and obviously, there is plenty available. Our church felt this event worthy of public knowledge.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your View: How to upgrade your business

    Let’s see now. When some folks wish to improve the exterior of their properties and have other taxpayers pay for the improvements, they create a community improvement district.

    July 21, 2014

  • Other Views Other Views: Decision fails test

    With the announcement that the State Board of Education has decided not to release individual school test results because of cyberattacks and other problems this spring, educators are scratching their heads, as are taxpayers who footed the bill.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Our View: Welcome additions

    After Joplin voters failed to pass a curbside recycling proposal in the spring, the City Council said it would study alternate ways to make recycling easier for residents.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your Letters: Be careful what you wish for on Amendment 1

    The proposed Amendment 1 should have been called “Freedom to Farm Without Any Restrictions Whatsoever” because that is what it is. Do you really want a feedlot opening next door to you in Joplin? Or a hog-raising operation on your block in Carthage?

    July 17, 2014

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