Independence Day is always a proud day for Americans, but July 4 also marks another milestone in our democracy -- the anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA is a federal law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 to address the people's "right to know."
FOIA established our right to access government records and to know what our government is doing -- both its successes and failures. Exercising our right to know gives us -- the public -- power. It allows us to contribute to our government and hold government accountable. From food and transportation safety to the use and disposal of chemicals, FOIA has enabled the public to not only ensure the health of our democracy, but also ensure our own well-being.
Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center conducted surveys in several communities and found that "people who believe their local government does a good job sharing information are more likely than others to feel satisfied with civic life."
How is our local government doing? FOIA (and related state and local laws) are only as good as we demand that they be. For decades, members of the League of Women Voters have acted as government watchdogs but more work needs to be done. Learn about your rights, visit a government website, and attend a government meeting. In short, participate in our democracy.
League of Women Voters of Wheaton