Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know

Rancho Santa Margarita Patch will participate in the national event. Learn how you can be a part of it, too.

Join Rancho Santa Margarita Patch for Sunshine Week 2012 as we celebrate, converse, comment, debate and educate our town about the importance of open government and the public’s right to know what government is doing and why.

We'll be running polls, sharing accessible online and tech resources on how to use local, state and federal sunshine and freedom of information laws, telling you what kinds of public records are available and how to get, use and decipher them, and explain how and why journalists use them to further one of our core missions of informing our communities well. And we want to hear from you about how you feel about the subject.

This year Sunshine Week is co-sponsored by ASNE and the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press and many other media industry partners, including Patch. The goal is to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in government transparency. The week is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami, along with the ASNE Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and others.  

In California, there are key laws that govern access to public records and public meetings. Here are a few of the best:

There are two acts that provide open access to public meetings, The Brown Act and The Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.  We also have the California Public Records Act that gives citizens access to all kinds of public information that is useful to communities.

To help Rancho Santa Margarita Patch spread a little sunshine around town, you or your group may want to consider adopting Sunshine Week.org’s Open Government Proclamation.

Sunshine Week.org explains more about that proclamation here below:

Since Sunshine Week was launched in 2005, many city and state officials have recognized and committed to open government through official proclamations. Some have also held hearings on open government issues or scheduled special events such as open government training sessions for public employees and the launching of a special webpage.

To mark Sunshine Week 2012, we urge citizens and civic organizations across the country to again press state and local officials to find meaningful ways to participate in Sunshine Week to demonstrate that they, too, are committed to true transparency in government. One way this can be done is by adopting a meaningful open government proclamation that pledges specific steps to enhance the public’s right to know.

Proclamations can be more than just statements of general support. They can also address and pledge action on specific open government concerns and shortcomings that you, your organization and/or the officials themselves have identified.

Toward that goal, the sponsors of Sunshine Week offer this model proclamation. It begins with a generalized statement of support for government in the sunshine, followed by a sampling of open government provisions that have resulted in increased transparency in local and state governments around the country.

If your city, county, school board or state government does something special to recognize Sunshine Week, please let us know. We'd also like electronic copies of any proclamations and other materials to share on the website. You, or the officials, can send them to sunshineweek@sunshineweek.org.

Chris McLaughlin March 13, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Can I post my copy of the OCSD's current Use of Force policy on Patch, that I was recently able to obtain through the Public Records Act process? It's a 9-page PDF. I'd be okay with writing a small article describing the process I had to go through. Thanks!
Martin Henderson March 15, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Go for it, Chris. We love user-generated content, and the experiences of people such as yourself are likely far more valuable to your neighbors than if a reporter did the same thing.


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