Other Views: Bravo to Idaho governor's open-government order
We couldn't be happier about Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recent creation of a public records ombudsman in his office.
Otter signed an executive order creating the position April 23. The ombudswoman, Cally Younger, will review how state agencies handle records requests. She'll also look for ways to improve Idaho's public records laws.
"An open and transparent government is a fundamental tenet of a free society," Otter said in a news release.
We couldn't agree more.
It's refreshing to see Idaho's highest state official declaring the importance of a transparent government. As a newspaper, we believe the people who elect officials to represent them have every right to know what's going on in government. We believe decisions, especially those that affect public policy and public safety, should not be kept behind closed doors. We believe that the taxpayers who foot the bill should know how their money is being spent.
Apparently not everyone agrees with us. Sean Evans, publisher of the Idaho Business Review and president of the Newspaper Association of Idaho, said his organization has seen "a trend of public record denials recently."
When government entities hide information, journalists and private citizens who should be privy to the details often have no option but to drop the issue. As Evans pointed out in a news release, "Few have the resources or inclination to sue every time the government rejects a request for a public record." The result, Evans said, is "a block on the freedom of information."
We'd like to see Gov. John Kitzhaber take a page from Idaho's book and consider instituting an Oregon ombudsman position. There are more than 400 exemptions to Oregon's public records law. The Center for Public Integrity recently gave Oregon an F in public access to information. Idaho scored a C minus — a score the ombudsman position can only improve.
Thank you, Gov. Otter, for ensuring your state's government is by the people, for the people and open to scrutiny from the people.