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North Dakotans should enjoy the sunshine this week

Granted, while you read this, the March weather outside could be gloomy and chilly, as springs around here often are. But the fact is this is a solid week for sunshine.

This week marks the fourth annual observance of Sunshine Week in North Dakota, a seven-day period started back in 2003 to mark the principles of North Dakotas open government.

A constitutional amendment approved by North Dakotans created the Sunshine Laws, which ensure residents of this state a government that will be open and available with the public. Things such as open meetings, open records, legal records and other accounts ensure that North Dakotans are privy to public proceedings.

More than 80 percent of North Dakota voters have asked the government, with the help of newspapers, radio stations and television stations, to keep tabs on the things that will impact their daily lives. Because of our busy schedules, the days of attending city council or school board meetings just to be present, with no personal agenda, are nearly over. Attend any city or school proceeding here in West Fargo, and youll see that the 15 or 20 people in the crowd are there because something on the agenda applies personally to them.

Yet, there are other issues that maybe dont draw the attention of the average resident that will have a resounding impact on their way of life in the West Fargo area. Even smaller, lesser-known boards, such as the Red River Valley Fair Board, the Cass County Vector Control and others hold open meetings and keep records for residents, because their decisions ultimately end up in our backyard.

Or, at least theyre supposed to hold open meetings.

When these boards try to hide their proceedings, purposely or not, theyre cloaking their work in the shade; blocking out that sunshine, if you will. Thats something that North Dakotans have shown, time and time again, they will not stand for.

This year, Gov. John Hoeven issued a proclamation declaring March 12-18 as Sunshine Week, saying that conducting government business in the spotlight of openness makes for a well-informed citizenry and better public policy.

Hes hit the nail on the head.

Because of that openness, and because we are a smaller state, we seem to have a more direct relationship with our public officials. In many communities, those elected or appointed officials are neighbors and friends. And a phone call from or to your state legislator isnt something thats out of the question, or is going to take all day to complete. So it only makes sense that North Dakotans are basking in the sunshine of open government.

As the old 1960s tune used to say, Let the Sunshine In.

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Id like to share a final note on the late Kirby Puckett, who died so tragically at the age of 45 last week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

With so many comparisons and compliments tossed around last week, I think what strikes me most is the way so many remember him as a brother figure. Puckett was a guy, despite his faults in life, who put his friends and colleagues first. He had a joy for his game, something that current athletes should learn about. And despite his status as an icon in the Twin Cities and most of the Upper Midwest, nearly everyone who was fortunate enough to spend time with the guy said he was a master at remembering names, making conversation, and always remained down to earth.

To me, and nearly everyone else, that said more about him than some of the accusations that hounded him after his baseball career.

Puck was one of a kind, and a legend in this regions sports scene. He will, without a doubt, be missed.