Government should be transparent
Government secrets should be an oxymoron rather than a common aspect of public business.
Even at the federal level, where national security is in play, secrets should be rare. At the local level, they should be non-existent. Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright should not be harboring a "secret plan" to undermine impending state legislation governing commuter taxes, for example. And local governing bodies such as school boards, city and borough councils and boards of supervisors and commissioners, never should suddenly vote on something without notifying the public first.
Transparency is not just the public's right, it's the best deterrent of bad public policy because it ensures debate.
That's why the state Legislature should approve a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Christiana, a Beaver County Republican.
Much of the public's legal right to public information is after-the-fact. Citizens have a broad right to obtain data on action already taken by the government. Before the fact, however, the right to access is less distinct.
Mr. Christiana's bill would work against surprises. It would require all state and local government agencies to make their meeting agendas at least 24 hours before the advertised starting time. It also would prohibit any vote, except in limited emergencies, on any matter not included on the meeting agenda.
No surprise appointments, no sole-provider contract awards and generally less potential for chicanery.
Providing a heads-up on impending business is the least that the government can do to help create an informed citizenry. The Legislature should pass the bill and make it as broad as possible.