Slowing closing the open door

Slowing closing the open door

Cincinnati Enquirer: Open, transparent government is a foundation of democracy.

But the foundation is slowly being chipped away in Ohio. Little by little, nick by nick, state leaders are chipping away Ohio’s Open Records Law, the law that allows the public to know what their government is up to.

Taken individually, these exemptions to our right to know might seem insignificant. Taken together, they represent a piecemeal attack on open government that deserves attention from anyone concerned about the quality and fairness of government.

Over the years, Ohio’s Open Records Law was weighed down with so many exemptions that, in keeping track of them, they’ve lapped the alphabet and are now on (cc). That’s 29 exemptions. As The Enquirer’s Paul Kostyu reported, the just-ended legislative session saw at least 44 bills related to open records, most of them restricting access.

More are expected in the upcoming session. Some legislators and public officials are saying they see a trend of political opponents using public records requests as tools of harassment. With that as their cover, they’re contemplating further restrictions on the public’s access to records, ostensibly to ward off “harassment” of public officials.

It may be true that, in some cases, repeated requests for public records may be used as a form of political harassment. But that doesn’t warrant restricting access to the general public. That kind of a “fix” would be worse than the “problem” they’re trying to cure.

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