2018-03-11 / Insight

Why should you care?

Abraham

Lincoln’s Gettysburg

Address has the answer: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

It’s our government and we have the right to know what it’s doing.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA) protect that right for “all persons” in Michigan. Not just adults. Not just citizens. Not just the media. All of Michigan’s people have the right to know what their government is doing. And it doesn’t matter why they want to know.

Some would argue that access to information like the personnel files of public employees or private business information held by government should be limited because those limitations could spare public employees from telemarketers or shield competitive financial information. But the open and neutral FOIA and OMA help us understand the acts and actions of our public officials and employees. FOIA ensures that parents can review the qualifications of teachers in their school system so they know that qualified teachers are being hired without regard to race or gender.

FOIA ensures that the police blotter is always available so that citizens can be warned that car thefts are occurring in their neighborhood. FOIA ensures access to applications for government benefits so that citizens can see that only qualified entities are obtaining taxpayer dollars.

FOIA and OMA are about accountability. They can help spot wrongdoing and weaknesses, but they can also provide us with information to improve our neighborhoods, our schools and our society.

The Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act are important in a democracy that is of the people, by the people and for the people. And that’s why you should care.

— Michigan Press Association

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