Stangl

There have been numerous studies about the health benefits of sunshine. Just 15 minutes a day in the sun gives the average person their daily dose of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones and teeth and may also protect against cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. It’s pretty amazing when you think that you get this protection from simply being in the sun.

But as amazing as Vitamin D is, scientists tell us that it dissipates quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Recent studies have suggested that a substantial percentage of the global population is vitamin D deficient.

Another benefit of being in the sunshine is that your mood improves. The next time it’s cloudy for an extended period time, check the mood of the people you encounter. It won’t be good.

This week is National Sunshine Week, a time set aside every year to highlight the importance of openness in government. It has many names – sunshine, transparency – but it all means the same thing: government is better when conducted as much as possible in plain sight.

Elected officials serve the public. They are elected to act in the best interest of the people they serve. We hopefully choose people who understand this basic principle. Many of our public servants understand this, at least at first, and do their best to do the right thing.

But it is very easy to go from the sunshine into the shade. Sometimes, there are difficult or sensitive issues that may upset people that need to be discussed in private. Lawmakers long ago identified the topics that should be protected from premature discussion in public when they created the open meetings law. Ethical leaders use this law for its stated intent to protect information when it is proper.

But the temptation to avoid scrutiny and input can be strong. Technology has given elected officials a new way to “discuss” issues – using email or chat programs and holding a virtual meeting, often discussing issues before a meeting. While I can understand the desire to avoid controversy, the public’s trust deserves openness and honesty. Even though it often seems like we lack the maturity to do so, we can handle the truth. It is always better to err on the side of openness when it comes to governance.

As the employers of elected officials, it is the public’s job to hold them accountable. When we perceive that things don’t seem or smell right, it is acceptable and our responsibility to ask the hard questions. If there is nothing wrong, a question won’t hurt a bit.

Our democracy needs a daily dose of sunshine to develop strong bones. Governing is hard work and our elected officials need to remember that doing as much business as possible in the open is always the best policy.

During Sunshine Week, I would encourage you to thank the elected officials that you believe are keeping your best interest in mind and question those who you believe are staying in the dark too often. A healthy dialog between taxpayers and elected officials is one of the basic tenets of our democracy.

And if you can’t stand in the sunshine for a few minutes a day, perhaps you should reevaluate your choices.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.