Government for the people

A got an e-mail from my friend who is involved with the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MN COGI). This group is going to be involved with MN efforts to promote Sunshine Week which is March 16-22.

Personally, I like the idea of people taking charge of our government. Access to information will allow all of us to be watchdogs of the government. As the mainstream media consolidates and becomes beholden to large private equity firms or large corporations, we need to increase the ability of the average citizen to hold the government accountable.

We also need access to the laws, rules, regulations, ordinances that the government must operate within. In my job, I have come to learn that many times, whether from lags in training, ignorance, or institutionalized urban legends, that having access to that information can be crucial in advocating a position or challenging the bureaucracy.

In fact there are two tactics to take in using information to help yourself. Either you can find the information, like in Minnesota where you can find the statutes, rules, or in Minneapolis the ordinances that are the basis of what you are dealing with, which does depend on your ability to sort through tons of information. Fortunately, I think what I have sought has been decently organized, but that isn’t always the case.

Or the other tactic, is to ask the for the statute or rule that is the basis of their position, this may be the only option if you can’t find the language (it could be an urban legend). Being able to play stupid, in a non-challenging way, can be super effective. There are a lot of great government employees, but there are some, where asking for clarification on a policy, can be the most effective tactic because it may not directly challenge them.

Remember knowledge is power, and no one person can know everything. If you get passionate about a topic, or it directly impacts you, you could end up being the expert. Access to all of the information will empower you to make a difference, either by supporting your position or seeking change.

-Josh

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