ZACHARY: More, not less, transparency needed

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

Government transparency matters more than ever. 

Open public meetings matter more than ever. 

Access to public records matters more than ever. 

As we all grapple with the COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, the public needs local government to be accessible, forthcoming and as transparent as possible — especially as it relates to public health issues. 

People have a want and a very real need to know. 

We are all in this crisis together.

Local governments should not have some special access to information that the public does not get to hear. 

Everyone needs full and complete information in order to make informed personal decisions. 

Even in the course of doing regular government business, there are ways for city councils, county commissions, boards of education, the General Assembly and even the governor’s office to use technologies to keep the public more informed.

Live streaming meetings, video conferencing, interacting with the public through chat screens, keeping the public informed by pushing out information through the media are all ways that government can remain open for business, do that business in open, transparent ways and still fully comply with the state’s Sunshine Laws. 

Local governments must be dynamic and creative, and they must also embrace the use of all the technological tools at their disposal. 

Sometimes, both in government and in business, people resist the use of technology not because it is too expensive but merely because it is outside of their comfort zone. 

Look, we are all outside of our comfort zone at this point. 

Social distancing, working from home, video conferencing and live chats are the new normal, at least for now, and perhaps for good. 

This national health emergency has changed everything. 

Government must adapt, but adapting cannot mean being less responsive or less transparent. 

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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