Open government good for elected officials

In honor of Robert Freeman's return to Madison County Feb. 13, Eagle Newspapers asked a couple of folks the following question: How is open government good for elected officials?

It's pretty obvious how open government is good for the public and the press, but how does it positively impact our political leaders themselves? The answers we received were insightful and varied, so we decided to ask the question on a broader scale. About 60 people who have expressed an interest in or who are connected to local government were selected at random to answer a one-question e-mail survey.

In honor of Sunshine Week, we're sharing the responses we've received. They are printed in the order in which they were received.

John Adams, freelance journalist: In my two cents, observing Open Meetings Law:

1. Builds public trust;

2. Protects public officials from accusations of misconduct;

3. Avoids the appearance of impropriety; and

4. Builds goodwill and loyalty among voting public and gets you re-elected.

And my two extra cents:

5. Would help a candidate build a groundswell of public support that a candidate needs to propel him or her to higher office.

6. Opening meetings to the public gets one free media exposure that money can't buy that may reveal an official's suitability to hold higher office. Of course, the reverse is also true. It may reveal one to be a scoundrel and not fit for anything except maybe dogcatcher.

Jim Goldstein, Lebanon supervisor: It keeps them honest and responsive to the public.

It allows the public to have more input. I really do care what people think, and we have had some very constructive input from citizens on a number of policy issues at the town and county level. We learn from them and they learn from us. We have made changes or modified proposed changes in policy in response to public input and comment.

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