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Our view: Help ensure access to public documents

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opinion Duluth,Minnesota 55802 http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sites/all/themes/duluthnewstribune_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Our view: Help ensure access to public documents
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

You don’t have to be a newspaper reporter, whistleblower or even someone important to request government documents via freedom-of-information laws, including Minnesota’s Government Data Practices Act.

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It’s your right as an American to be able to access information that yields what government is up to — and not up to. It’s your responsibility as a citizen to make sure what elected and appointed bodies are doing is legal, proper and what you want. Documents and information are necessary.

But how do you go about getting them? How do you submit written requests for public data?

A workshop from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Duluth Public Library downtown can help. It’s sponsored by St. Paul-based Public Record Media. Leading the session is Rich Neumeister, a longtime public-record requester and advocate for open government. Public Record Media President Matt Ehling, a winner of the Finnegan Freedom of Information Award for government transparency work, also will speak.

“In order to make informed judgments about policy issues, the public must have access to information about the function of its government entities as well as the large private institutions that they regulate and interact with,” the nonpartisan nonprofit says at its website, public

recordmedia.org. “PRM believes that (freedom of information) is a lynchpin of the democratic process. In order to ensure oversight, enable public input, and uphold the integrity of the democratic process itself, access to information about the workings of government and the large institutions it interfaces with is essential.”

That means access to anyone. Today’s workshop is free. Participants are asked only to bring ideas for public-record requests.

Go. Learn. No matter who you are, you can play a role in making sure government is held accountable.

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