By: Philip Harris
By upholding the Texas Open Meetings Act, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sent a clear message to local officials in Texas that it is fully constitutional to mandate transparency. This comes as no surprise to the millions of Texans who understand implicitly that more transparency in government harmonizes well with the United States constitution. Unfortunately for those same Texans, their local leaders must be told by judges that they can be forced to allow the public access to their meetings.
In upholding the Act, the 5th Circuit invalidated local government leaders’ argument that the act is oppressive to government speech. Opening the curtains and letting the sun shine on local government actions is only oppressive to corruption, and local leaders would do well to embrace open meetings, rather than shrink from the light.
Ultimately this validation of the Texas Open Meetings Act is just one more step to increased transparency in government, and more importantly, lowering local government debt in Texas. Without full access to the proceedings of local governments, citizens cannot be the effective watchdogs that our founders envisioned.