Our open Oregon

October 18, 2007 11:00 pm

Kevin Neely's visit to Baker City this week was a refreshing reminder of Oregonians' good fortune — and good sense.

Neely, a lobbyist for the state's district attorneys, also spent six years as spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice. He was in town Monday talking about how the state's open-records laws work. At the invitation of The Associated Press and several local newspapers, he put on a daylong workshop for local public officials and journalists.

As Neely pointed out, for years Oregon's "sunshine laws" have been among the most progressive in the country, ensuring that public officials do the public's business in public.

While the laws allow for the obvious exceptions — no releasing private individual information, such as Social Security numbers — they assume that most documents and meetings will be in full public view.

And, as with the constitutional guarantees of free speech, open-records laws don't apply just to journalists. They're there to make sure all of us know what our government is up to.

In an era where security fears frequently trump basic individual freedoms, that's comforting to know.