Iowa’s ‘sunshine’ board is busy

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: March 19 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:49 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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“A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a face, or a tragedy, or both.” —  James Madison

Our country’s fourth president understood that a transparent, accessible government was critical to ensuring a free and stable nation. His wisdom is no less important today in a world that has become increasingly complicated and connected by technology.

Thus, as we observe the annual Sunshine Week, we’re thankful for and commend to Iowans the Iowa Public Information Board.

Created by legislation in 2012 after several years of wrangling about its structure, purpose and funding, the board has been active since July. Contrary to critics of the idea, it’s serving a need. In the first eight months, the board staff has fielded 368 questions, complaints and requests.

The majority are from citizens who want help in acquiring public records or gaining access to meetings without having to file a formal complaint that may take weeks or months to resolve. And about one-third of the contacts are requests from government officials and staff for assistance in interpreting and implementing Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws.

While it’s too soon to judge the board’s effectiveness and whether being part of the governor’s administrative umbrella allows enough independence, we’re encouraged by the growing use of its resources. It’s a one-stop agency where Iowans can get answers regarding their concerns about how state and local government should be responding.

It’s a valuable citizen tool to ensure there’s plenty of sunshine on government in Iowa.

Use it as needed.

Comments: editorial@thegazette.com or (319) 398-8262

TO GET HELP:

The Iowa Public Information Board website provides advice on what public meetings should be open, how to get copies of public records as well as other information on Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws and a training section on those laws at

www.ipib.iowa.gov

Or, call the board at (515) 725-1783

Or, email the deputy director, Margaret.Johnson@iowa.gov

 

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