Originally created 03/16/05

Groups proclaim need for open government



ATLANTA - Plastic dinosaurs, snakes and turtles were among the quirky "awards" presented Tuesday by a coalition of government-access groups recognizing what they called champions and foes of official openness.

The event was timed for the Ides of March, the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar, to send a signal to powerful politicians that public outrage can have disastrous consequences if ignored.

"We need to remind our legislators - our government agents - that they work for us," said Michael Badnarik, last year's Libertarian Party presidential nominee.

The rally also coincides with Sunshine Week, a national celebration of legislation that allows the sun to shine, so to speak, in all the corners of government.

Also present were Common Cause, the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and a handful of community activists challenging various branches of government.

Scott Davis, the former chairman of the South DeKalb Repub- lican Party, used documents obtained under the state's Open Records Act to force Georgia to clean up landfills in his county.

He said other freedoms, including the right to assemble and to speak, were based on government openness.

"What is the benefit of all that freedom if you don't have access to any information?" he asked. "What are you going to talk about? What are you going to assemble about?"

The coalition came together as Georgians for Open Government a few weeks ago, initially to fight passage of a bill that would have exempted from public access all documents dealing with companies seeking taxpayer gifts in exchange for creating jobs. That bill has been stalled in the Senate for the rest of this session.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or walter.jones@morris.com.