It’s Sunshine Week—why that matters {Editor’s Column}

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Government works best under the glare of public scrutiny. Absent such scrutiny, abuses occur.” ~Stephen Hawking

Niki Turner

A world-renowned physicist,  Hawking passed away this week. His quote seems especially timely during Sunshine Week—when journalists remind everyone how vital it is that government activities be open and accessible to the public and the press.

We all find ourselves staring at instances of government corruption, overreach, negligence, waste and general bad behavior and asking, “How the heck did they get away with that?”

Lack of public scrutiny, for one. When those in positions of authority make it difficult for the average person to access public records (by limiting where those records are located to government-operated websites, for example) or by shutting down public questions and comments in open meetings, those officials stymie the democratic process.

I’ve always wondered how the Germans let Hitler steal their country and poison their society. Again… lack of public scrutiny. One of the first things Hitler did was stifle the press and implement an astonishingly effective propaganda campaign.

We can’t trust the government to tell us everything we need to know, because there will always be someone in office somewhere with impure motives.

As citizens, it’s up to us to learn about the public process. Find out how open meetings are supposed to be conducted. Read public notices. Ask for them if you can’t find them. Request that they be published, and don’t let those in office—appointed or elected, on any level—tell you that you don’t have the right to know. Remember, they are our public servants, not the other way around.

On that note, I’d like to thank the commissioners for hearing our concerns about the consent agenda Monday, and for being willing to work with us to foster better communication with the public.

Last year we were touched by the story of a local woman who was struggling to make ends meet because of the ramifications of Multiple Sclerosis, and my husband organized a St. Patrick’s Day event to raise funds for locals impacted by the disease. March is also Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.

St. Patrick’s Day brings me to my odd history connection. At a historical presentation for the newspaper’s 130th anniversary, I learned that the paper’s founder, James Lyttle, emigrated from Ireland and was living in Leadville, Colo., during the same period my great-grandparents were spending their social seasons there.

Modern technology recently revealed some of my husband’s family history none of us knew. All we’d ever heard from his grandpa was “five Irish brothers came over during the potato famine.” I discovered not only five brothers, but three sisters we’d never heard about and a feisty Scots-Irish mama who brought her eight kids across the Atlantic all by herself after her husband died.

Turns out that side of my husband’s paternal family is from the same tiny Irish village as the Lyttle family, and my husband’s direct ancestor was born within two years of James Lyttle. Given the fact the town’s population has remained around 250 people for centuries (they know how to not grow), it’s more than plausible the families knew each other.

One of my own paternal great-grandfathers was born less than 10 miles north of that Irish village. He emigrated quite a bit earlier, but still, it’s fun to realize what a richly interconnected world we all share. Join us Friday at Chipper’s to raise funds for the Meeker Multiple Sclerosis Fund.

We had a phone call from the Rangely Police Department yesterday asking if we had someone in Rangely getting signatures on a petition.

Apparently this individual was telling folks he was “from the paper” and trying to get them to sign a petition.

For the record, he has nothing to do with the paper, and we have no such petitions out.