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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Open Gov't Is The Main Issue in One Election

The Bellingham Herald report about an election for water district commissioners in which open government is the main issue. The water district has a record of significant open-government problems and has been cited by the State Auditor's Office. Now the main issue in the campaign is whether candidates will change the closed-government ways of the incumbents.

This is how it's supposed to work. The law--the Public Records Act or Open Public Meetings Act--usually doesn't solve every problem. It costs money to hire lawyers, judges rule the wrong way, and litigation causes delays in obtaining a result; in short, legal remedies are often impractical. But accountability, where voters base their selections in part on whether a candidate is being open or not about the public's business, is free and usually pretty swift on election day. Accountability kicks in to guide government to follow the law. Sometimes. But it's better than having to sue over everything.