Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Paying Tribute To Local Heroes Of Open Government

by Carrie Shaw May 31st, 2010

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

Though written 188 years ago, this quote from James Madison could easily serve as a mission statement today for the numerous nonprofit organizations and citizen-based blogs and websites dedicated to ensuring more open government practices and transparency. Madison is often referred to as the “Father of the United States Constitution.” His priceless contributions to the founding of the nation include co-authoring along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton the Federalist Papers which apart from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, provided the philosophical framework and intellectual justification for the Bill of Rights and government we know today.

It is therefore fitting that one of the state’s top government watchdog groups. Washington Coalition for Open Government, presents it’s highest honor each year in Madison’s name to an individual or organization that exemplifies a deep commitment to open government. Last year, Denny Heck and Stan Marshburn, founders of TVW, the nonprofit statewide public affairs television network were honored with WCOG’s James Madison Award for 2009. Known as the “C-SPAN of Washington,” TVW’s live broadcasts of legislative committee meetings and floor action and year-round coverage of public policy conferences and government meetings have helped to improve citizen awareness and access to the decision-making activities of state government. The TVW model is now spreading as more cities and municipalities are providing cable broadcasts of meetings and public hearings.
Nominations for the 2010 James Madison Award are being accepted up through June 30th. You can learn more by going to the Washington Coalition for Open Government website.

This region is nationally recognized for innovation in the area of public engagement. From the award-winning Countywide Community Forums to the Conversation Cafes and the City of Seattle’s Data.Seattle.Gov this region remains at the forefront of applying new technologies to strengthen the civic infrastructure and participatory democracy. So here’s to the open government heroes — past, present, and those whom will join this important effort in the future.

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