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Sunshine Week promotes open government, democracy

Posted March 13, 2011 4:55 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2011 5:01 p.m. EDT

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— Gov. Bev Perdue this month declared the week of March 13 Sunshine Week in North Carolina as part of a national initiative to celebrate government transparency and its importance to democracy.

Started in 2002 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Sunshine Week raises awareness of the importance of citizen access to governmental records and proceedings, according to a news release from Elon University, which is holding a one-day conference about access in the state on March 17.

The university also polled N.C. residents about a possible amendment to the state constitution that would make all government business open and available to the public. Four out of five poll respondents were in favor of such an amendment, according to the university.

Four out of five respondents also agreed that "transparency is key to fighting government corruption and 93 percent say that public hearings are essential to good government," said a university news release. The poll, which was conducted last month and surveyed 467 people, found that 75 percent of North Carolinians believe governments naturally like to keep secrets from citizens.

Residents polled said the top three types of information citizens should have access to are police reports, names and addresses of registered sex offenders and government records that identify the type, amount and location of hazardous chemicals. Respondents said citizens should not have access to divorce court files, driver's license records and government employees' work emails, according to the release.