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Saturday essay: The real power

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, March 28, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

Once said esteemed Revolutionary Era pamphleteer Patrick Henry: “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

How ironic it is that in this day and age of ever more electronic records and state and federal government transparency laws, our “rulers” seem to work overtime to shield the record of the public's business from public view.

Think of the local municipality that lags in its response to information requests (sometimes even openly deriding them); think of others attempting to charge excessive rates for copies of records.

Think of the local county that hides the public business behind the rubric of “executive sessions,” sometimes even deciding issues behind closed doors, then play-acting with “official votes” in public.

Think of the state agency that might comply with a request for public information, even in a timely fashion, but egregiously and nonsensically employs the black marker of redaction, laughably hiding even public information readily available elsewhere.

And think of the federal government that repeatedly defends its ad hoc rewriting of open-records laws, never mind that the illegality is so obvious, it resembles an ancient palimpsest.

The public cannot consider what it cannot see. But as Mr. Henry also reminded, it is the people who truly do have the power to force transparency and accountability: “(T)he battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”

— Colin McNickle

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