It’s up to the public to shine light on local government
In September, the Colorado Press Association published the latest version of a booklet for journalists titled, “Sunshine Laws: Public/press guide to Colorado laws on open meetings and open records.”
The booklet is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket or a purse, and every reporter and editor at this newspaper has a copy.
In its 17 pages, it outlines the Open Meetings Law that regulates how and when decisions can be discussed and voted upon by our public officials.
It also includes the Colorado Public Records Law, explaining which documents are available for the public to read along with a pre-formatted letter for requesting those records.
Not only is this a great resource for reporters, it’s also a good reminder to our readers that our public officials are to be held to a certain standard ” that all decisions should be made as visibly as possible with ample time for the public to respond.
This is not always the case.
Our reporters attend every meeting of the Kremmling, Granby, Grand Lake, Fraser and Winter Park town boards ” as well as the meetings for two school districts and many other taxing entities in Grand County.
Granby Town Board in particular spends a good portion of every meeting in executive session under the auspices of “negotiations.”
Much of this time in executive session is spent talking about the particulars surrounding development.
While this is allowed, legal and acceptable, we question whether it is in the best interest of the public.
We are not accusing anyone of violating the Open Meetings Law, but there is a difference between obeying the letter of the law and the “spirit” of the law.
If our leaders are too timid to discuss issues of relevance to the economy and social fabric of our towns in the light of their regular meetings, how can voters know who their public officials are and why they make the decisions they do?
Decisions made in executive session must be voted on in public, but if the thoughts and emotions behind those decisions are made behind closed doors ” how can the public know if they agree?
The only way to ensure that all public meetings are, in fact, public is for the public to attend.
At the advice of one of our readers, we will start publishing the dates, times and locations of all public meetings on our calendar page. We encourage you to take advantage of that information and take your seat in the council chambers.
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