Gov. Jeff Colyer stood alongside numerous members of the media — an unheard of act for his predecessor — in delivering change for all Kansans.
Colyer joined members of the Kansas Press Association, Kansas Broadcasters Association and the Kansas Sunshine Coalition Thursday as he signed four executive orders aimed at increasing government transparency.
• Eliminate fees for the first 100 pages of documents requested under the Kansas Open Records Act by Kansas residents.
• Require employees of the governor’s office to only use official email accounts for state business.
• Mandate all cabinet agencies to track and report performance metrics on their agencies.
• Create a centralized website for posting of open meeting notices of executive branch agencies.
There’s still much work to do. The release of police body camera videos to the public, and elimination of anonymous bills in the Legislature are among high priorities moving forward.
As for the new executive orders, they marked notable progress compared to what happened on Sam Brownback’s watch. Just days into his new role, Colyer has accomplished more to encourage transparency than the former governor did in seven years.
That said, Colyer is running for governor — and he was Brownback’s ultraconservative sidekick the past several years, so there's cause to doubt his sincerity.
Many in the Statehouse, after all, only spoke up about openness in government in the wake of an eye-opening series by The Kansas City Star. In “Why So Secret, Kansas?” The Star exposed many examples of government secrecy in a state arguably worst in the nation when it comes to transparency.
Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, spoke on behalf of Kansas media during Thursday’s news conference with Colyer.
“We believe that when the state’s chief executive steps up and brings attention to the governmental access issues our organizations work on every day, it elevates the conversation to a new level. We appreciate that,” Anstaett said. “We trust this new emphasis on transparency — both by the governor and state legislators — becomes the norm in Kansas.”
And not just for the media serving as watchdogs, but for all Kansans who deserve far better access to the workings of their government.