Everything looks better in sunshine — especially the government.
Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, which became law in 1975, cites that “public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business.” Each week the pages of the Mount Desert Islander (Ellsworth American) are filled with stories that stem from public proceedings. This paper, and its reporters, know that the public relies on us for complete, factual, and comprehensive news coverage and to deliver that we rely, in part, on two-way communications with elected and governmental officials. Sometimes those relationship works well, with news and information flowing readily from a municipality to the public, and sometimes additional tools are needed.
One such tool is Maine’s FOAA law, which grants to all people the right to inspect records and attend public proceedings. It aims to ensure transparency and accountability and works to shine a light at all levels of government.
This year, March 15-21 has been deemed Sunshine Week and with it comes a chance to highlight Maine’s right to know laws, including the Freedom of Access Act.
Maine’s FOAA laws are for everyone — not just journalists. All governmental proceedings, with narrow exceptions, are open to the public and the public has the right to be included in most steps of the decision being made around them.
Any member of the public has the right to request documents from their local, state, and federal government and to review the meeting minutes taken at each public meeting. We urge the public to exercise these rights whenever possible because those actions reinforce the importance of the law and remind elected officials that a democratic system relies on an open flow of information.