When Elon University polled North Carolina residents in 2009, they found a disconnect:
Of those surveyed, 88 percent'thought open government meetings and records kept government operations honest.
Yet 63 percent were not aware that state laws exist to allow public access to government records.
That's why the mission of the university's Sunshine Center is so important. Run by the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University, the center educates residents about their rights to government information, and helps people access official meetings and records.
This week, the center announced some great news:''it has built a $500,000'endowment.
Knight Foundation'gave a'$250,000 challenge grant' for the Sunshine Center's endowment in 2007.'Local organizations such as'the Triangle Community Foundation and the North Carolina Press Foundation'have raised enough to match the grant amount. Additional support came from Time Warner Cable, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and individual contributors.
Now, the Sunshine Center can continue to push government at all levels to be more transparent and facilitate access to public records. Their work helps fulfill the recommendations of 'Informing Communities,' the report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.
The Sunshine Center also participates in meetings with other members of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and hosts Sunshine Week activities in North Carolina. Sunshine Week is an annual nationwide event run by the American Society of News Editors. The events provide information about freedom of information and encourage journalists, schools and civic groups to advocate for open government laws.