In honor of Sunshine Week, the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) is pleased to recognize three leaders in government who will receive SGI’s Sunshine in Government Award (“Sunshine Award”) for their commitment and work to strengthen open government.
SGI is honoring two government employees, Tim Crawford and Larry Gottesman, for their leadership in the creation of FOIAonline, a unified system re-using existing government technology that agencies can use to manage requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIAonline system allows the public to make, track and receive responses to their requests. While remaining a vital tool to obtain information held by government, FOIA too often involves lengthy delays, lost requests, unanswered help desk calls and a flurry of paper documents ping ponging around federal offices. The new system became operational on October 1, 2012, and is currently used by a handful of the 100 agencies subject to FOIA. It is a cost-effective, build-for-one, available-for-all service that will allow the government to spend less taxpayer money while improving FOIA processing.
In addition, SGI is honoring Senator Ron Wyden for his commitment to the flow of news and information about world affairs and national security matters. Late last year Senator Wyden publicly opposed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 because it contained language that would have significantly restricted the flow of news about foreign affairs and national security. In a speech from the floor of the United States Senate explaining his concerns, Senator Wyden recalled his father, who as a journalist wrote about the Bay of Pigs invasion and developments leading the U.S. to use the first atomic bomb. “Accounts like these are vital to the public’s understanding of national security issues,” Wyden said. “Without transparent and informed public debate on foreign policy and national security topics, American voters would be ill-equipped to elect the policymakers who make important decisions in these areas.”
The Sunshine Award was created to honor individuals who have made a significant contribution over time to open government at the federal level. SGI chooses honorees based on several criteria: Each recipient contributes significantly to the public’s understanding of open government laws or how these laws impact people’s everyday lives, protects the public’s rights under open government laws such as the Freedom of Information Act; and serves in government making current, concrete and oftentimes unrecognized contributions to protecting or strengthening open government.
The award itself is a handsome clear sculptured obelisk reflecting the importance of transparency in government.
The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a coalition of media groups, including RTDNA, committed to promoting policies that ensure the government is accessible, accountable and open. Public oversight is the ultimate safeguard of democracy. It is the inalienable right of citizens to examine and judge their government; and that right is served when news media act on behalf of the public to gain access to information.