Public information is a powerful tool. It's yours. Use it

Friday , March 17, 2017 - 5:00 AM


Sunshine Week is nearly over. But your access to public information never ends.

Or at least it shouldn’t.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors started observing Sunshine Week in 2005. A celebration of government transparency and Americans’ access to public information, Sunshine Week also commemorates the March 16 birthday of James Madison, considered the father of the U.S. Constitution.

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives," Madison wrote in 1822.

Federal and state law guarantees your access to government meetings and public records. Armed with facts, you can hold government accountable.

Armed with facts, you can also protect your health and safety.

For instance, you can check Northern Utah restaurant health inspection reports.

You can review nursing home or day care center inspection records.

You can verify an organization’s nonprofit status.

You can search the Utah sex offender registry.

You can find out who’s donating to political candidates — and how much.

You can examine a city, county or state budget.

Sometimes, obtaining public information requires a Utahn to file a GRAMA request. GRAMA is the Government Records Access and Management Act. But don’t be intimidated — despite its imposing title, a GRAMA request is simply a tool.

Using that tool can unlock information to which, by law, you are entitled.

Ask for it. And don’t take no for an answer.

Because the law says it’s your information. That’s the whole point of Sunshine Week.

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