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Return to meetings in person a positive step toward access

Open meetings are central to how our government operates. They play a role in transparency. The allow the public to witness the representatives they elect working for the common good.

We appreciate this quote from Patrick Henry, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers: “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

During a speech on the expediency of adopting a federal constitution, he went on to say that there are occasions that merit some secrecy, such as with military matters, “but to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man and every friend to his country.”

Government agencies in modern times have operated, by and large, in the public light. The state’s open meeting law mandates it.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic that shut down just about everything, at least for a short time.

Almost immediately, government took a giant step online and began to operate electronically.

For the safety of our communities, public meetings began to be held remotely.

Anyone with a computer and internet access could go online and follow the meetings. It’s been going on since March.

But therein lies the problem — not everybody has the requirements for that kind of access.

Nobody in their right mind would argue against going remote for a limited time. And, of course, there is no reason online access to meetings cannot continue to afford the public options for staying informed.

But we believe the time has come for government to get back to the business of being accessible by all constituents.

To that end, it is good to see a return to in-person meetings by a number of local councils and school boards.

They are doing this by following the public safety protocol of cleaning and hand washing, social distancing and masking.

We believe they are taking the right steps and that anybody who wants to attend a meeting should respect and follow the protocol.

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