Solar flare reminds us: Sunshine Week’s almost here

Scientists who study the sun note the massive solar flare hitting earth on March 8 is part of the sun’s natural cycle, however we’re pretty certain it’s celebrating Sunshine Week, which starts on Sunday, March 11.

Started by the American Society of News Editors and now coordinated jointly between ASNE and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (both SGI members), Sunshine Week is a celebration encouraging greater public appreciation of open government.

Government transparency is an essential value for democracy, but perhaps more importantly it plays a more practical role ensuring our leaders are doing what they say they will, spurring action to make our nation secure and our communities safer.

The calendar is full of events (the solar flare isn’t one of the scheduled actions) and we’re sure we’ll see some announcements not on the calendar.  Stay tuned.

By the way, don’t forget to turn your clocks back this weekend for Daylight Savings Time.  For Sunshine Week, of course.

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Sunshine Week 2012

Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government, will be held March 11-17, 2012.  The week coincides with the birthday of James Madison (March 16th).

Initiated and sponsored for years by the American Society of News Editors, this year Sunshine Week is a collaboration between ASNE and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In the past, journalists have conducted audits of FOI laws, policymakers write opinion pieces, editorial cartoonists contribute works for broad distribution, interest groups sponsor programs, and Congress holds a hearing or two to push bills or take stock of where we are with government transparency.

OGIS announces annual report, new blog

Our friends at the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) are expanding the office’s online presence with a new blog, “The FOIA Ombudsman: Information and Advice”. Although the office and its staff have been busy with Sunshine Week activities, they have also found time to release their first annual office report: “The First Year: Building Bridges Between FOIA Requesters and Federal Agencies”. The report shows the office working to integrate statutory directions, practical expectations, and competing policy priorities as it strives to help both requesters and agencies use FOIA more efficiently and effectively.

Advocates, officials discuss sunshine measures

Here’s a brief summary of testimony by witnesses at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on the Freedom of Information Act.  Our appreciation to Chairman Patrick Leahy for holding the hearing (and adjusting the schedule to avoid conflicting with “FOI Day” at the Freedom Forum).

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This week’s forecast: Sunshine!

Update: SGI coordinator Rick Blum will be testifying before Darrell Issa & the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Thursday, March 17 on FOIA.

It’s Sunshine Week!  Yes, for the next seven days, the Sunshine in Government Initiative will join many other groups, journalists, activists, and citizens in celebrating Sunshine Week, from March 13-19, with a variety of events and activities designed to raise awareness of our efforts to improve the availability of government information for the public.

Monday, March 14 Freedom of Information Day Celebration (9:30 AM, Collaboration on Government Secrecy)
Lobbying reform panel discussion (2:00 PM, Advisory Committee on Transparency, 2203 Rayburn)
Tuesday, March 15 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FOIA (10:15 AM, 226 Dirksen)
Wednesday, March 16 Freedom of Information Day (8:30 AM, at the Freedom Forum)
Thursday, March 17 James Madison’s birthday 

Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing (9:30am start, 2154 Rayburn HOB) [added 3/15/11]

Friday, March 18 OpenTheGovernment.org‘s Sunshine Week event/webcast: “The Road Forward on Open Government” (12:00 PM, at the Center for American Progress)

While Washington-based, these events reflect issues of nationwide interest and impacts. Journalists and media organizations across the country will be covering the policies and people involved, from national figures to local heroes.

Talking Transparency on C-SPAN

Recently I had the great opportunity to talk transparency on C-SPAN.  I appreciate Kevin Goldberg for his busy schedule and thinking of SGI to fill in.  Originally conceived as a segment in mid-March to talk about Sunshine Week, the wildly successful effort led by the American Society of News Editors to call public attention to transparency in government, our half-hour discussion focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to promote transparency from within the executive branch.  This month federal agencies released open government plans, and while many agencies were spurred to start talking transparency seriously, others were moving enthusiastically to push transparency.

The callers reminded me that transparency means different things to different people.  Some, like the caller who wanted to know more about a death near the U.S. border, were frustrated that many agencies couldn’t provide straight answers and needed to know where to look.  Others cared about health care reform and wanted to see more of the process leading to Congress enacting reform legislation.  So we started by trying to define transparency.

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