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National Freedom of Information Coalition Looking to Start V.I. Chapter

Feb. 23, 2007 –- The executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) encouraged community members Thursday to protect their right to view and access government information by becoming a part of the national organization, which advocates access to public information.
Charles Davis addressed 60 people gathered at the Rotary Club of St. Croix's noon meeting at Gertrude's Restaurant: "Everyone is an advocate of freedom of information, especially when government policies directly affect our lives." People access government information every day when they prepare to vote or when they read the newspaper, he said.
The role of the national organization is to provide grants to startup local groups who have not-for-profit status, Davis said. The first step in creating a local group is to form a steering committee and apply for membership. NFOIC can assist new groups by helping set up a website and producing brochures outlining their goals and objectives.
NFOIC advocates the creation of groups to protect the public's right to an open government, Davis said. Local groups can avoid "post-decisional reaction" to issues by allowing the public to be knowledgeable about the decision-making methods of government officials.
A local group would have four main objectives, he said: to educate the public on the importance of having the information and to encourage citizens to attend government meetings; to provide civic education to youth through the schools; to work with and along side government; and to train lower-level government employees on what the public is entitled to regarding freedom of information.
There is no federal constitutional right to access government information in the Virgin Islands, Davis said. However, the V.I.'s Sunshine Act, which addresses "open meetings" and access to all records and documents of the government, is not unlike laws in other jurisdictions that have been passed to augment the Freedom of Information Act. Locally, however, there is a "need for reform of the access process and enforcement of the freedom act," he said. "There is a gap between the law and what is practiced."
J. Lowe Davis facilitated Davis' visit to the territory to "energize individual citizens to become a part of the organization." Davis, the former executive editor of the V.I. Daily News, (and no relation to Charles Davis), said journalists have a special interest in freedom of information. It "is our bread and butter," she said.
She went on to say that the coalition cannot "repeal senators" but can help expose to public view the decision-making process that results in laws and decisions made by government officials.
"St. Croix is the place where this is going to happen," the former editor said, explaining that a grassroots movement on St. Croix has highlighted problems of access to government information.
The information may not be "covered up," she said, but "it may not exist." She hopes the newly formed group will become a "major lobbying group" and urged interested people to call her if they want to be part of a meeting to establish a steering committee that may be held as soon as next week.
To contact J. Lowe Davis, call 774-8772, ext. 350.

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Feb. 23, 2007 –- The executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) encouraged community members Thursday to protect their right to view and access government information by becoming a part of the national organization, which advocates access to public information.
Charles Davis addressed 60 people gathered at the Rotary Club of St. Croix's noon meeting at Gertrude's Restaurant: "Everyone is an advocate of freedom of information, especially when government policies directly affect our lives." People access government information every day when they prepare to vote or when they read the newspaper, he said.
The role of the national organization is to provide grants to startup local groups who have not-for-profit status, Davis said. The first step in creating a local group is to form a steering committee and apply for membership. NFOIC can assist new groups by helping set up a website and producing brochures outlining their goals and objectives.
NFOIC advocates the creation of groups to protect the public's right to an open government, Davis said. Local groups can avoid "post-decisional reaction" to issues by allowing the public to be knowledgeable about the decision-making methods of government officials.
A local group would have four main objectives, he said: to educate the public on the importance of having the information and to encourage citizens to attend government meetings; to provide civic education to youth through the schools; to work with and along side government; and to train lower-level government employees on what the public is entitled to regarding freedom of information.
There is no federal constitutional right to access government information in the Virgin Islands, Davis said. However, the V.I.'s Sunshine Act, which addresses "open meetings" and access to all records and documents of the government, is not unlike laws in other jurisdictions that have been passed to augment the Freedom of Information Act. Locally, however, there is a "need for reform of the access process and enforcement of the freedom act," he said. "There is a gap between the law and what is practiced."
J. Lowe Davis facilitated Davis' visit to the territory to "energize individual citizens to become a part of the organization." Davis, the former executive editor of the V.I. Daily News, (and no relation to Charles Davis), said journalists have a special interest in freedom of information. It "is our bread and butter," she said.
She went on to say that the coalition cannot "repeal senators" but can help expose to public view the decision-making process that results in laws and decisions made by government officials.
"St. Croix is the place where this is going to happen," the former editor said, explaining that a grassroots movement on St. Croix has highlighted problems of access to government information.
The information may not be "covered up," she said, but "it may not exist." She hopes the newly formed group will become a "major lobbying group" and urged interested people to call her if they want to be part of a meeting to establish a steering committee that may be held as soon as next week.
To contact J. Lowe Davis, call 774-8772, ext. 350.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.