Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunshine Week: Because you have a right to know

Sunshine Week courtesy cartoon
Is your tap water safe to drink? Do your elected officials pay the same property taxes that you do?

Do your tax dollars go for needed municipal benefits, or is the money spent on bloated government salaries and pricy junkets? Is your congressional representative responding to the electorate or is he or she acting at the behest of special interests?

You have a right to know.

"Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government," said Thomas Jefferson. "Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

That is the premise behind open government and freedom of information, and it's celebrated annually during national Sunshine Week. This year, it starts today, March 11.

Open government and freedom of information is not just for the press. Every citizen has the right to question the government, attend meetings and request records.

Two Honolulu events will mark the week for Hawaii.

"Sunshine and the Social Web: Citizen Power through New Media Tools," a panel discussion sponsored by Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii, will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at The GreenHouse, 685 Auahi Street, Honolulu.

It features a panel discussion with:
•    Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara, Jr.
•    Ikaika Hussey, Publisher of The Hawaii Independent
•    Patti Epler, Deputy Editor at Civil Beat
•    Larry Geller, Blogger at Disappeared News
•    Kory Payne, Partner at Hawaii Policy Portal

Media mergers have limited the number of professional journalists working in Hawaii today. Coverage of public offices and issues has suffered while citizen interest remains. Can social media and citizen journalism fill the content void and ensure we have the information needed for a healthy democracy?  How can citizens use technology to promote government transparency and public engagement?  Panelists will help answer these questions and others on government transparency. RSVP by emailing or call 275-6275.

“In an age of merging media and evolving technology, how can we best equip the public to take an active role in the legislative process, and ensure that policy-making is done in transparency? By hosting informative discussion sessions to address and explore these issues, our groups are working in concert to empower everyday citizens -- encouraging them to stay engaged in the legislative process, think critically about the policy-decisions being made, and hold those in power accountable,” Carmille Lim, League of Women Voters of Hawaii board member, said in a statement.

"Democracy Under the Influence: Sunshine Workshop," sponsored by Common Cause Hawaii, Kanu Hawaii and League of Women Voters of Hawaii, starts at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at the YWCA Laniakea Room 307, 1040 Richards Street, Honolulu.

"In honor of Sunshine Week, this month’s meetup is a “Sunshine Workshop” to shine the light on campaign and lobbying data," said Love. "In this discussion, we’ll share findings on the biggest campaign donors and lobbying spenders, explore patterns between campaign contributions and legislation, and show you how to conduct your own online research to discover the links between money and policy." RSVP by emailing or call 275-6275.

Are you a 'Ray of Sunshine'?

The popular Sunshine Week Ray of Sunshine game is back with all-new questions for 2012.

Take the quiz and wear the victory badge on your own site and Facebook page.

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