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March 29, 2011 7:21 am

EDITORIAL: Public information should be available

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Curious about the assessed property value of your neighbor’s house? Or who owns a certain property? Or the square footage of any building in Park County?

Just go online.

With a few clicks of a mouse, you can find those answers and other information, such as the history of assessed property taxes, photos of the property and a site’s acreage.

While this information has been available to the public for years, it became more accessible earlier this month when the Park County assessor’s and treasurer’s offices launched new online features on the county’s website, www.parkcounty.us.

“I still have a belief that public information should be available to the public,” Pat Meyer, county assessor, told the Tribune last week.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Government operates at its best when it is open and accessible, thereby building the trust and confidence of citizens.

Open government was recently celebrated across the country with “Sunshine Week,” a national movement that highlights the importance of the people’s right to know what their government is doing and why.

Park County has several commendable examples of government operating openly by allowing easy access to public information.

Both the cities of Powell and Cody provide recordings of council meetings on their websites as well as their agendas and minutes.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office and Powell Police Department each post reports online and maps to see where reported incidents took place. Through the Powell police website, residents also can listen to scanner activity from local emergency responders. The sheriff’s office also provides booking information and photos of all inmates at the county detention center.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement.

The Wyoming Legislature defeated two measures that would have made government more open during its session that adjourned earlier this month.

One bill would have required agencies to make public records available within a week of the request. As it is now, custodians of public records have no deadline for making requested records available.

Another failed measure would have required government bodies to record executive sessions that are legally closed to the public (for personnel, legal or real estate discussions). That way, if someone questioned whether the session violated Wyoming’s open meeting laws, a judge could listen to an audio recording to make a determination.

That would provide assurances that open meeting laws are being followed and that governing bodies are not meeting behind closed doors for inappropriate reasons.

We encourage the State of Wyoming, Park County and local municipalities to continue to make information and meetings open to the public and easily accessible. Transparency in government benefits every Wyoming citizen.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link April 26, 2011 2:16 pm posted by Dustin Cole

    My concern is the security of the information that is not public. Mixing the two is easy to do and it has happened all over the U.S. and in Wyoming State Government. Texas just spent 1.8 million when personal information was exposed to the public.

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