Sunny days

Mar 18, 2009 at 12:00 am

Forget the strange bedfellows, some truly unholy alliances are going on in politics this year.

They were set up by one particular line in President Barack Obama's inaugural address: "Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

OK, we live in the real world, and we know that units of government everywhere are not suddenly going to begin freely handing out all the info we have a right to. But here in Michigan something's just happened that portends to be a big step in the right direction: Michigan Republicans have introduced three bills in the state House and another planned for the Senate that would, together, require all state agencies to develop and maintain searchable websites disclosing expenditures of state funds. That includes all spending related to state purchases, contracts and grants. And we all could access them as easily as we get Snuggie parodies on YouTube.

Dare we dream? No more paper Freedom of Information requests handed off to surly secretaries who act like we're asking for state secrets when we want to know how money is spent? No more unwarranted extensions of time to comply with FOIA requests? No more fees that, in our experience, have ranged from none to hundreds of dollars for the same information requested from different public agencies?

News Hits in bed with the Republicans? We feel drunk and slutty.

Then came a media advisory from the Americans for Prosperity thanking the 42 state representatives who have uploaded their office expenses to their official websites. AFP, by the way, is a national anti-tax, anti-government group with affiliates in 23 states including Michigan. Not exactly a likely News Hits drinkingbuddy.

Regardless, AFP's Michigan leaders were celebrating Sunshine Week, which began March 15. Led nationally by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the week seeks attention and support for openness in government and public access to records. As part of AFP's recognition of the week, the Michigan chapter is calling on House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Township) to bring the house bills for a passage vote.

News Hits is happy to be part of that party.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]