Hurricane Katrina highlighted massive government failures to provide up-to-date and accurate information to the public both before and after the failure of the levees. Recent news accounts of tragedies in mines show public safety threats are exacerbated when government inappropriately withholds information. Transparency can help government and the public get timely information before a disaster strikes – and help it cope after. What about your community? Is government at all levels telling the public enough to enable us to keep our families safe?
In celebration of Sunshine Week, a panel of experts from around the country will discuss open government and secrecy – the problems confronted, the impacts on communities, and what the public can do. Locally-sponsored programs in communities around the country will continue the discussion of openness issues in their communities
Are We Safer in the Dark? An Overview
During the 90-minute national conversation, speakers & video segments created to spur discussion will address:
INTRODUCTION: The program will start with a short video previewing the topics to be discussed. After the video, our moderator Geneva Overholser will introduce the program and panelists.
VIDEO: New Orleans environmental reporter Mark Schleifstein talks about his frustrating experience getting information from EPA during Hurricane Katrina using the Freedom of Information Act.
DISCUSSION: Tom Blanton and Tom Susman will talk about the public’s rights and how the system works.
Q & A: Panelists will take questions from the audience, including from host sites around the country.
VIDEO: A TV news investigative reporter tries to get background checks of volunteers in Florida public schools only to discover they are not available.
DISCUSSION: Barbara Petersen will speak about some of the positive provisions that Florida has in place and why the public should care.
Q & A: Panelists will take more questions.
VIDEO: This video spotlights Joseph McCormick, who was refused access to key information about a proposed oil and gas pipeline to run right through his community.
DISCUSSION: Panelists will discuss the issues addressed in this video.
Q & A: A final period for questions.
CONCLUSION: Wrap up of discussion and any final comments from the panel.
At 2:30 pm EST, the national portion of the program will conclude and you may begin your local program if you have one planned.
Thomas S. Blanton, National Security Archive
Thomas M. Susman, Ropes & Gray
Barbara Petersen, Florida First Amendment Foundation