Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government and the people’s right to know, got an unexpected and welcome beam of hope in mid-March when Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order directing state agencies to speed up responses to public records requests and to track them to show their performance.
Attorney Robert J. Dreps, a champion of open government who has represented news organizations in groundbreaking cases for three decades, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.
Among the many remarkable things about the defeat of the proposed overhaul of the Wisconsin Public Records Law over the July 4 weekend last summer was the way the media, open government groups, advocacy organizations on the left and right, and the public coalesced to point out how ill-conceived the idea was.
The last six months have been a roller coaster for Wisconsin’s open records law. After the Legislature’s failed attack on the law over the Independence Day holiday, August brought a new threat. A little-known state board expanded the definition of “transitory records,” which can be immediately destroyed. Once this action was revealed, there was an impressive outcry from the public and that change was dialed back last month. But there is still cause for concern.
Sometimes, when author Tom Warren researches issues for his books, he feels the pull to become an advocate. And that helps explain why, for the past two years, Warren has mailed a check to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
In 2015, Wisconsin advocates for open government faced a disquieting truth: If we want to preserve our state’s tradition of transparency and accountability, we must fight for it, against powerful players who will be fighting back.
The types of news stories Sharon Dunwoody finds most compelling — and most crucial in 2015 — dig deeper than “he-said-she-said” truth claims; they use data to analyze and corroborate or refute sources’ claims on important issues.
Nominations are being sought for the sixth annual Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award, recognizing an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin.
The Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation report, which provides state-by-state data on laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and transparency, will launch Nov. 9.