Statewide seminars will help keep information flowing

Statewide seminars will help keep information flowing

Commentary by A.L. Alford Jr.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is excited about the first three public records and open meetings sessions held so far – in Idaho Falls, McCall and Salmon.

That’s enough to get north central Idaho public officials, citizens and media enthused, too, about seminars No. 4 and 5. The first will be Thursday in Moscow and the second will be Friday in Lewiston.

Moscow’s will be from 1 to 3 p.m. at room 104 in the College of Law at the University of Idaho. Lewiston’s will be from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Clearwater-Snake River rooms at Williams Conference Center at Lewis-Clark State College.

The workshops are mainly for local government officials. About 180 invitations have been mailed to city, county, school and district officials in Nez Perce, Latah, Idaho, Clearwater and Lewis counties, ranging from the Lewiston City Council and Latah County Commission to the Nezperce Rural Fire District and the Ferdinand Cemetery District.

The workshops are also for citizens interested in good representative government.

You may not be familiar with the 2-year-old sponsoring organization, Idahoans for Openness in Government, known as IDOG. IDOG is a broad-based, nonprofit coalition formed in 2003, joining similar coalitions in more than 40 other states.

The board of directors includes Idaho’s secretary of state, Idaho League of Women Voters, the Idaho State Broadcasters Association, the Idaho State Library, a public service lawyer and newspaper reporters and editors.

IDOG’s mission is simply to “promote open government and freedom of information.” The goal is to foster open government and an informed and engaged citizenry. The mantra for the workshops: “We believe that we all benefit when the public, the media and government officials are fully aware of the public’s rights to access government information and observe the conduct of the public’s business.”

The focus, in other words, is fostering open government.

The workshops are personally directed by Wasden.

Why is Wasden enthused after the 2004 seminars at Idaho Falls and McCall and last May’s at Salmon? It’s because he’s leading a collaborative effort with government, IDOG and the Idaho Press Club, a long-standing tradition of his office.

“I hope that these workshops will lead to a common understanding of the basic rules for public records and open meetings,” Wasden said. “The laws are important because they help citizens understand what their government is doing. An informed electorate makes for a stronger democracy.”

A common understanding between local governments and media can serve at least three important purposes, Wasden said. First, provide timely access to public information. Second, protect information that the law requires to be protected, such as records of active law enforcement investigations. Third, reduce conflict over access to government information.

The Moscow and Lewiston workshop agendas?

The event sponsors, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and Lewiston Tribune, will extend a welcome. Wasden will address the merits and needs for open government and access to public records, acting as a referee of sorts for skits to demonstrate openness and access, with role playing by elected local officials (playing parts of reporters) and members of local media (playing parts of elected officials).

It promises to be fun. More important, it promises to be informative. IDOG’s Web site is The Web site for a similar Washington organization is

Alford is a member of the board of directors of IDOG, representing Idaho Allied Dailies, and may be contacted at

From the Lewiston Tribune

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