Thursday, August 13, 2009

FOI OK asks candidates for Tulsa muni offices and House Dist. 55 to sign Open Government Pledge


Candidates for Tulsa municipal offices and for the House District 55 seat in western Oklahoma have been asked to sign a pledge to uphold the letter and spirit of the state’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws.

Forty-two candidates for statewide, local or legislative offices have signed the Open Government Pledge since FOI Oklahoma Inc. began distributing it in 2008.

The most recent are Tulsa City Auditor Phil Wood, who is seeking re-election, and Rocky Frisco, a candidate for Tulsa City Council District 4.

In signing the pledge, candidates “endorse the purpose of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws to ensure and facilitate the public’s understanding of governmental processes and problems.” They also “pledge to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

Candidates for local offices pledge that they and the public bodies they are “elected to govern will comply with not only the letter but also the spirit of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws.” Candidates for state legislative seats also promise to “support legislation to strengthen the letter and the spirit of Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws.”

Signers are listed on the FOI Oklahoma Web site, where the pledge form is available for download.

FOI Oklahoma began the Open Government Pledge in spring 2008 as part of a national effort to spur public commitments to government transparency from candidates for president down to city council contests.

But the pledge is just one step in making open government a priority in this state. Voters and the news media must make it a campaign issue. If we think it’s important, those seeking public office will, too.

Find out what candidates have done to support government transparency. Point out if incumbents have undermined our right to know. If candidates haven’t signed the pledge, ask why.

What if candidates don’t live up to these promises once elected?

Then we show them the door at the next election and elect people with the integrity to conduct our government in the open. Ultimately, it’s up to us – the voters – to hold our elected officials accountable.

In Tulsa, 43 candidates are vying for municipal offices. The primary is Sept. 8. The general election is Nov. 10. More information on the candidates can be found at The Tulsa World.

A special election is being held for House District 55, which covers Washita County and parts of Caddo, Canadian and Kiowa counties. Four candidates are seeking to replace a Democrat who accepted a federal agriculture post. The primary is Sept. 8, followed by the general election on Oct. 13.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism


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