BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
This week marked Sunshine Week for 2017, a nationwide celebration of open government and readily accessible public information.
Clarkston’s own state Rep. Jim Tedder was honored by Michigan Press Association for his support of transparent and open government, as well as journalism, with the Peter Pettalia Memorial Sunshine Award
“It’s a high honor to accept this award,” said Tedder, a second-term representative. “My first commitment is to be transparent, accessible, and accountable to my constituents. In the business of government, if you don’t have integrity, there’s little else of value.”
“The media needs legislators like these who will battle for a more open government, better FOIA legislation and who believe that open government is good government,” said Dirk Milliman, MPA Public Policy Committee chairman. “We applaud them and their efforts in Lansing and are proud to present them with a Sunshine Award for their continued work to include the people of Michigan in the governmental process.”
Tedder is a co-sponsor for a bill package removing Freedom of Information Act exemptions from the governor’s office and the legislature.
“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as being too transparent,” said Tedder. “I conduct all phone calls, office hours, every meeting, as if there were 100 people watching me. Voters expect transparency, to know I’m acting on their behalf.”
Provisions in the package protect personal information provided to representatives by residents seeking help, he said.
“HB 4155 includes an exemptions for communications between office holders and constituents,” he said.
The MPA’s transparency award was renamed to honor former state Rep. Peter Pettalia, who was killed in a motorcycle accident last fall. Pettalia was a vocal advocate for newspapers and open government and one of the first recipients of the award.
Tedder is also a strong supporter of newspapers.
“Newspapers have traditionally been and remain a very important and independent voice in enforcing honest discourse and transparency in government officials,” he said. “Even in the digital age, there are still folks who rely on the printed page. It’s great when elementary students visit The Clarkston News and you show them volumes of newspapers dating back to the 1930s.”
House Bill 4002, which would phase out requirements for governments to post public notices of their activities in the local papers, has been reintroduced this year and is in committee. If it makes it to the floor, Tedder said he will continue to oppose it.
“I opposed it last session,” he said. “I don’t believe the bill has any changes whatsoever, and if so I will also oppose this bill.”
Also receiving the awards are state Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), second term representative who is a proponent of open records, government accountability, and available citizen information throughout his years in the House; and state Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), second term senator who supports the First Amendment and sponsored the “student free press and civics readiness act” last year which would provide protections for student journalists. He will be reintroducing the bill this session.
The Michigan Press Association chose these legislators for this award based on their continuing efforts to improve citizens’ information regarding their government in Michigan, and their leadership in promoting the importance of available and accessible public notices in keeping Michigan’s citizens informed about government activity. These actions directly support MPA’s mission of defending free speech, promoting a strong press and fostering an informed citizenry.
The 2017 Peter Pettalia Sunshine Awards will be presented to the legislators this spring. Visit michiganpress.org for more information.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO