Forum to promote Sunshine Laws

The League of Women Voters of Pasadena will host a community forum on Saturday called “Access to Impact: Using Open Government to Create Change” in recognition of Sunshine Week.

Sunshine Week, a national initiative started by the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2002, promotes the Sunshine Laws, part of American freedom of information legislation that guarantee access to data held by the state. Sunshine Week runs March 14-20.

“We just felt would be a worthwhile thing to provide an opportunity for the community to learn about Sunshine Laws, and learn about their rights as citizens to access information and hopefully encourage participation in local government,” said Monica Hubbard, director of social policy at the League of Women Voters.

Presenters include Pete Peterson, executive director of Common Sense California; Hedab Tarifi, vice chairperson of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Larry Wilson, public editor of the Pasadena Star-News; Jan Sanders, a Pasadena librarian; and Michele Beal Bagneris, attorney for the city of Pasadena.

Panel discussion will be followed by breakout sessions facilitated by League members from each of its ten service areas.

Transparent government and civic engagement are critical to a healthy democratic society, Tarifi said. Born in Gaza and raised in Kuwait, Tarifi immigrating to the United States during the first Gulf War. She now works as an information technology manager at General Electric. In addition to her work with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Tarifi is a founding member of the Intereligious Alliance of San Gabriel Valley.

“Growing up in the Middle East, you didn’t have access [to government data],” Tarifi said. “Even if you attempt to have access or participate in the process, you are either shut down or god forbid, you could end up in prison...Here is the U.S. you as an individual count. Your voice counts.”

The forum will remind attendees of their rights to access government information, as well as their right to privacy, Sanders said. State laws, as well as the Constitution, protect the borrowing records of library goers, she said.

“Public libraries are sort of the gatekeepers of public information and we believe access...has to be free and open to all users. That is the premise that drives public libraries as a force.”

The “Access to Impact: Using Open Government to Create Change” forum will take place on Saturday at Neighborhood Church, located at 301 N. Orange Grove in Pasadena. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.

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