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Shine a light on public information

March 15, 2017 at 6:06 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2017 at 12:02 a.m.

Last week, the Victoria Advocate hit a bump in regular news coverage. The Victoria Housing Authority fired its executive director, but in spite of the change in leadership being the organization's fourth in just two years, representatives refused to explain their motivation.

Coincidentally, this incident occurred just in time for Sunshine Week. Created by the American Society of News Editors, the annual weeklong event is meant to highlight the importance of open government and to celebrate the public's right to know that their leaders are conducting their business in public view.

As you would expect, your Advocate is a strong proponent for government transparency. We believe open communication helps our community to hold its leaders accountable. Not only does revealing government action expose and prevent wrongdoing, it also shines a light on those who do an exceptional job for our community.

It remains unclear why Louis Boldt was fired. By continuing to keep the public in the dark, the Housing Authority is doing a disservice to residents. The organization does crucial work to provide homes for veterans and other low-income renters, so it is vital that its leaders be above reproach.

And, should the situation turn out to be innocent, the Housing Authority's continued silence does nothing but tarnish its former director's reputation. Either way, an open and honest explanation would prove beneficial to Victoria.

Sunshine Week also reminds us that closed government costs citizens more than information. Whenever news sources have to file an open records request, or, in extreme cases, take the matter before a court to reveal what the public has a right to know, taxpayers foot the bill. A simple interview costs officials nothing but time and occasional embarrassment, but forcing exposure via the law converts the price into dollars paid by taxpayers.

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we want to implore the Housing Authority to act in the public's best interest by revealing the reasoning behind its recent actions. Our community deserves to know why such an important organization has undergone yet another leadership change. With the information brought to light, residents can work to fix the problem, if there is one, or be reassured that the organization is functioning smoothly.

Lastly, as with each Sunshine Week, we want to remind residents to keep local leadership accountable. Continue to demand public information through sources such as your local newspaper and bear in mind how vital open government is to the health of our community.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.


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