Last Sunday, the Roanoke Times ushered in Sunshine Week with great fanfare. The awareness created by such coverage is important. However, I thought I would post this at the end of sunshine week. Supporting open government is a year long activity that is part of how we do business in Blacksburg every day.

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA as we call it in the government circles, is a serious and important law that guides all our actions in government. FOIA confirms the fact that we are about the people’s business. Records, forms, correspondence and emails are open to public viewing and review.

In Blacksburg, we take this responsibility very seriously. Our attorney Larry Spencer wrote this very good article about FOIA that has been printed across the state.

It is the town’s philosophy that if someone asks for a document, we supply that document as soon as possible. If someone asks for many different documents, we work with them to attempt to focus on the information they want in order to save time and, if a large amount of documents, money. It costs the person who requests the documents for search time and copying costs, so we want to help them keep this cost at a minimum.

It is our goal to supply as much information as possible. In the past, we have released documents that we were not legally bound to release, but we felt it important that citizens understand the information council received and used as a basis for their decision.

We try as best we can to inform the citizens of our activities. Sometimes it takes time for citizens to be aware of an issue. When that happens, we try to back up and start again.

That is one reason I write these posts. I spend this time and energy to expand upon town operations as best I can. I am a realist. I know that, no matter how hard we try, there will be someone who does not hear about an issue and will question the process. That does not mean we stop trying to use all means of communication possible and reasonable.

We are always looking for ways to improve. That is why, in this blog, all comments will be approved unless they are spam or use inappropriate language without a name attached. In fact, if you read through these comments, probably half are critical or take issue with a statement made. It is helpful to know what people are thinking. While we might not always agree, your comments are read and considered.

We are very serious about open process. Our town attorney guides us and we only use closed meetings in very specific cases, mainly litigation, personnel, real estate and legal advice from our attorney on specific issues.

We only schedule these closed sessions after review with the attorney, manager, mayor and vice mayor. We want to always live up to the spirit of the law as well as the letter.

I have found in my seventeen years of public service that the more information that is out there, the better we all are. It aids citizens in their quest for knowledge and answers and also helps elected officials receive informed input from engaged citizens. It helps us all.

So Let The Sunshine In!!!!!!!

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