Friday, January 21, 2011

Georgia Sunshine Laws, your guides to Open Records and Transparent Government

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at table with a couple of bloggers, another politician and a bunch of fed up taxpayers whereby we discussed transparency in government for over an hour. We discussed our personal experiences, how it works, the benefits to the community as well as ways to improve the various governments that were at one time or another were actually put in place to best serve us the citizens.  It was awesome.

I explained that as a sitting Dunwoody City Councilman, almost every piece of paper I touch that is City related and every Dunwoody related e-mail I send and receive, is a public record and therefore subject to Georgia's open records law. I explained open meetings law, quorum requirements and the laws surrounding the recording (and publishing) of such meetings to the group.

I told them that I would post a copy of a booklet entitled "Georgia's Sunshine Laws, a Citizen's Guide to Open Government" which covers most non-law enforcement governmental agencies as well as the booklet entitled "Georgia Public Schools and the Open Records Act", a citizens Guide to Accessing School Records.  Finally for your reading pleasure, I have included the Blue document entitled "Georgia Law Enforcement And The Open Records Act; A Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide To Open Records in Georgia".

In having the privilege of setting up a government from scratch, I have pushed transparency first by example and then with the assistance of my fellow council members through policies and procedures in order to have long term impact on the City well after we are off the council. Audio recordings and then video recordings of every Dunwoody meeting have been personally archived by myself and published to the web. Recently a contract was let by the City to install a state of the art video recording and publishing system that will greatly improve what I started. Every document packet that has ever been produced by the City for me to review prior to City Council meetings has been pushed to the web electronically for review of the citizens and now through set policies, procedures and capital investments; the city will forever be doing the same.

I had a fun evening spending time with like minded, passionate individuals who are willing do what they can to affect positive change, some of us now working from inside the establishment while others operate through what are quickly becoming defacto mass media outlets (Atlanta Unfiltered, Peach Pundit, DeKalb School Watch Blog, DeKalb Officers and many, many others) to affect policy though the spread of information.

If you are not familiar with open records and open meetings law please do take a look because believe it or not the Government is actually in place to serve you.


GaryRayBetz said...

Though greater transparency in Illinois probably would have prevented scoundrels such as Rod Blagojevich or George Ryan from ever coming to power in that state, sometimes the pendulum can swing too far the other way - sometimes you can have too much transparency where it impedes a good man or woman's ability to govern and invades their privacy.

Image if you had the type of transparency we have now when FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan, or Dwight Eisenhower were president - do you think with their peccadilloes they would have been as effective leaders as they were?

And because of the contumelious, prying, self-righteous Ms. Linda Tripp, and the weaselly snitch Matt Drudge, Bill Clinton's proficiency in his second term was greatly attenuated.

Sometimes there are things we just don't need to know about our leaders, and too much transparency might just prevent decent men or women from seeking public office for fear of being pilloried for their least little blemish or shortcoming.

I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that sagely advised, "A man without vices is a man without virtue." before shipping a case of whiskey to Ulysses S. Grant, and in appreciation ol' Ulysses promptly finished off Vicksburg.

Aleister Crowley said...

GaryRay, I must take my hat off to you, those are pretty bold comments for someone living south of the Mason-Dixon line.

GaryRayBetz said...

Not so very brave - I have three big dogs and a mean wife.

The Albany Journal said...

Just a quick note to applaud your community service. We sure could use you in Albany, Ga., where I publish a weekly newspaper, The Albany Journal. Best wishes in your pursuit of good government.
Kevin Hogencamp