Government transparency is the cornerstone of a democratic society. But it's a principle that is too easily forgotten by some public officials and the communities they serve.
Luckily, Seattle Times readers and Washington residents have been blessed with stalwart open government advocates like David Cuillier, Chris Ingalls and Seattle Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley, recipient of the Washington Coalition for Open Government's 2020 James Andersen Award.
Cuillier, a former Washington journalist, is president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism. He was recognized with the group's James Madison Award for his longtime advocacy of open government.
KING 5 investigative reporter Chris Ingalls and his colleagues received the Kenneth F. Bunting Award for their use of public records in reporting about mold infections in Seattle Children's Hospital operating rooms.
Riley, who is a member of the WCOG board of directors, was selected as this year's James Andersen honoree for her "relentless pursuit" of government accountability and dedication of these editorial pages to inform the public about the importance of conducting the public's business in the light of day.
It was Riley who rallied the state's newspapers in 2018 to oppose lawmakers' attempts to exempt themselves from the state's Public Records Act. In a rare front-page editorial, the editorial board called on Gov. Jay Inslee to veto the repugnant legislation. It was joined by editorials by The News Tribune (Tacoma), The Spokesman-Review (Spokane), The Olympian, The Columbian (Vancouver), Bellingham Herald, The Tri-City Herald, The Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, The (Everett) Herald, The (Ellensburg) Daily Record, Skagit Valley News and The Wenatchee World.
The response was a deluge of constituent messages to the governor's office. The governor followed through and killed the noxious bill.
The work continues. In the past year, The Times has published more than two dozen editorials calling for greater transparency from public institutions, including state and local governments. At the same time, Riley has worked through WCOG to safeguard the public's right to know.
This vital work is often thankless and invisible. But it is vital to a thriving democracy. Congratulations, Kate and other award recipients. The honors are richly deserved.