By The Editorial Board
In December, the editorial board wrote about a local township that was having a little trouble following the Sunshine Law. We received calls and emails in response calling us Trump supporters for daring to point out the breach in protocol, while others called us leftists for daring to refer to Kennedy’s Fairhaven Park as scenic.
We even received an unsigned letter (Readers, please sign your letters and provide contact information so that we can publish them. We get some doozies that we wish we could share with the rest of the world.) complete with photos of Fairhaven Park showing us “rusted-out” fencing and a hole in a piece of playground equipment with what the writer called a “razor-sharp edge.” There was also something about “an old storage shed” and “disrepair” throughout. Regardless, this person took umbrage with the use of the word scenic and suggested Kennedy apply for some park grants like Carnegie, Crafton, Coraopolis, Stowe and McKees Rocks have done. We like that idea. Sounds like good, prudent fiscal management.
Interestingly, our Right to Know request for the township’s 2023 budget (analysis featured in this issue), as opposed to the three-line spending synopsis we received back in December when municipal budgets are passed, shows plans for investment in a new mobile-friendly website. Manager Greg Clarke said the township will use the new website to solicit input from the residents as to what they might like to see in an updated Fairhaven Park.
They’ll also be able to more easily add documents, such as Sunshine Law required agendas, and, oh yeah, budgets.
What you need to know:
Sunshine Law requires any government entity to conduct business in full public view. For example, they can break for an executive session to discuss a short list of exempted topics – most commonly litigation and personnel – but they can’t simply discuss whatever they want behind closed doors. Any business discussed in an executive session must ultimately be approved in public.
Right to Know law requires governing agencies to disclose any form of record or document when requested by the public (this means you, not just the media). Exemptions exist here as well for sensitive items like police reports compiled during an ongoing investigation, but the burden of proof falls on the agency to show why any record should not be made public.
The way your government operates, how your money is spent and who remains protected while others have to fend for themselves–all these things are critical for citizens to know in order for them to make decisions about their elected officials.
Sunshine kills parasites that feed in the dark. It fades a flashy coat of paint. Sunshine also makes a garden flourish and a forest grow. A healthy democracy needs sunlight to survive.
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