Mr. governor-elect, the public IS the party

Thursday, January 6, 2011

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Swearing-in ceremonies for Ohio’s new governor will be open to the public after all, not just a family affair.

Closing the ceremony and a party to all but relatives and close friends seemed a curious way for the newly elected John Kasich to begin conducting public business. After criticism, the governor-elect relented and opened the proceedings to reporters and some members of the public, a spokesman said today.

During an earlier news conference, Kasich said, “I think there's a lot of people that are going to come to my event that don't want you sticking a notebook and a pencil in their face.” According to the Associated Press, he added that his guests didn't want the news media chronicling what they ate and drank or whether they could dance well.

Kasich, a former congressman, Fox News commentator and Lehman Brothers managing director, also has moved the swearing-in from his home to the Ohio Statehouse.

Sorry about the “notebook and pencil” thing, governor-elect. But you and your friends probably should be prepared these days to face smart phones and video cameras, too.

I would guess that a lot of your fellow Ohioans can sympathize with the desire not to be observed on the dance floor, or to have a record of what celebratory beverages were consumed by whom and in what amounts.

But the more than 3.6 million voters in the recent election won by former congressman Kasich, a Republican, over Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, aren’t party-crashers. In fact, they are the party.

Citizens have a right to see what government does — from major initiatives to minor events — so they may exercise their First Amendment rights to praise, criticize, support, oppose or petition to change what their public officials are doing.

Excluding the citizenry in this nation, or the reporters there on the public’s behalf, belongs more to the era of George III than Kasich 2011.

Open government and a public presence may well be inconvenient at times, embarrassing at moments, and, one hopes, inspiring on occasion.

But necessary, always.

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