President’s Update

To say that the First Amendment, freedom of the press, open government and the role of responsible journalism is under attack is stating the obvious.  The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government is proud to combat misperceptions and misinformation with education, and through the dedicated and determined efforts of our Executive Committee and Board, and supporters of our initiatives, we have stepped up those efforts.

As this newsletter effectively highlights, we have intensified alliances and collaborations with organizations similarly interested in expanding public awareness and understanding of these critical issues.

Our First Amendment curriculum for high school students is being made available to more schools, teachers, and students, with the support of the state Department of Education.  The key components were shared, in a slightly revised format, to a general audience at Connecticut’s iconic Old State House, in association with their leadership.  There are further initiatives in the works with both organizations in the coming weeks.  And we continue to seek more schools interested in having our extraordinary speakers talk with students.

The second annual Stories Behind the Stories program played to a full house, with rave reviews of the insightful comments offered by a panel of stand-out journalists and a superb moderator.  The event has quickly become a staple for CFOG, and attendees are already looking forward to next year’s gathering.

The popular annual CFOG Essay Contest for high school students is underway, with three engaging topics offered.  Entries are due on March 28, and winners will be announced in May.  If you know of a high school teacher interested in having students participate, please urge them to learn more at our website.

Efforts are underway to highlight key issues during annual Sunshine Week (It’s Your Right to Know), marked nationally March 11-17, 2018, with a CFOG White Paper in the works, along with commentaries highlighting serious issues, and perhaps a public discussion program as well.

Beyond the actions of concern at the national level, there is no shortage of issues that merit our attention in Connecticut.  Whether it is the effort to make public access to government information more costly or the struggle over the release of historic data, public speech at college campuses or access to reports developed for municipal governments, maintaining open government policies continues to require our vigilance.

To further our mission, CFOG has updated our website to expand material outlining our activities, and increased our social media footprint.  We have also added a second full Board meeting to our annual calendar and undertaken a top-to-bottom review of our by-laws, with tremendous input from Board members.  The nominations committee is considering a number of individuals who have come forward to express interest in joining CFOG’s Board, and we have been invigorated by the addition of several new members and incumbents who have skillfully undertaken expanded roles.

There has rarely been a more important time in which to pursue CFOG’s essential agenda.  As Bob Frahm, a longtime Hartford Courant reporter and new CFOG Board members described it, “Without public scrutiny, officials who conduct business in secret not only lose the input of their constituents, they raise suspicion about their work. In the end, their secrecy erodes trust. That is the real danger.”

There’s more to do in 2018.  Thank you to all who are unrelentingly committed to the effort.

Bernard Kavaler
President, CFOG