Let the sunshine in

From yesterday’s Cape Cod Times: Let the sunshine in:

“This is the beginning of Sunshine Week. We’re not talking weather. We’re referring to the state and federal climate related to open government. In both cases, it’s mighty chilly.

“In Massachusetts, the cradle of democracy, the current open meeting law is one of the most restrictive in the nation. It gives boards of selectmen and other governing bodies too many excuses to discuss important public policy issues in executive session.”

Read the rest.

Towns develop online presence

The third in The Republican’s Sunshine Week series: Towns develop online presence.

“Brimfield residents can learn plenty about their town’s volunteer fire department by going online to www.brimfieldfd.org, but they won’t find a Web site to keep them up to date on how their town government operates.

“That could change soon. The Board of Selectmen is moving, cautiously, toward getting a town government Web site started.”

Read the full story.

Investigation reveals obstacles to getting info

From today’s Metrowest Daily News: Investigation reveals obstacles to getting information:

“The IRS has arguably the most famous and feared deadline in the United States.

“But when it comes to deadlines for Freedom of Information Act requests, the tax agency isn’t nearly so demanding of itself.

“‘I apologize for any inconvenience my delay may cause,’ wrote the tax agency, as it explained why it would blow the 20-day deadline on a GateHouse FOIA letter for logs of its public records requests. And if you don’t like it: ‘You may file suit.'”

Read the full story.

Web site established to educate voters

From The Republican today: Web site established to educate voters:

“It’s not easy being an open book.

“But that’s exactly what organizers and volunteers with Project Vote Smart intend to do with information about the nation’s elected officials and office seekers. From biographies to issue stances, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization combines it all in one vast database for free and on the Web.”

Read the full story.

Meetings law due for overhaul

From The Republican yesterday: Meetings law due for overhaul:

“The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association collected nearly 300 pages of clips from 2006 about constant and sometimes repeated violations of the law around the state.

“In one of the most egrigious cases, the Boston City Council was fined $11,000 in 2006 by a Superior Court judge for repeated violations of the law spanning about two years.

Read the full story.

Sunshine law hits clouds in Brockton

The Brockton Enterprise: Sunshine law hits clouds in Brockton:

“A request for city cell phone records has been met with a busy signal at City Hall.

“‘Got a million things going on, working on your info,’ Mayor James E. Harrington’s chief of staff, Donna Daley wrote in a March 6 email.

“The Enterprise sought two sets of public records in conjunction with Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to reinforce the importance of open government.”

Read the rest.

Aberration of Open Meeting Law?

From The Sun Chronicle: A trend or an aberration of Open Meeting Law?:

“It may be cold and gray outside, but journalists across the country are celebrating National Sunshine Week in an effort to remind readers about the importance of open government and access to information.

“The issue of open government has been particularly marked in the area this year, with The Sun Chronicle seeking enforcement of the state’s Open Meeting Law in the communities of North Attleboro and Foxboro.”

Chief justice: Courts gaining in efficiency

From reporter Dan Ring at The Republican:

“BOSTON – The state’s courts are benefiting from a revolutionary overhaul in management, with cases getting cleared more quickly and judges sticking to trial schedules, the chief justice of the state’s highest court said yesterday.

“In a speech to leaders of the state’s newspaper industry, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall linked improved management of the courts to the economy. Marshall said economic development and a well-managed judiciary go hand in hand.”

Read the rest.