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Columns

  • Alaskan adventure was great, but there's really no place like home

    If you’ve not been to Alaska, you need to go, and you need to go soon so you won’t say, “I wish I went earlier.”

    Alaska is a place of incredible beauty, with wildlife right outside your window, dangers that are more than just conversation and the rugged individualistic spirit of people similar to those who settled this great country.

  • Toilet terror: Unbelievable but true

    Has everyone heard the story about the poor woman in Kansas who spent the past two years in her boyfriend’s bathroom and was found stuck to the toilet seat?

    If you haven’t, trust me, I’m not making it up.

    According to various published reports, a 35-year-old Kansas woman, now identified as Pam Babcock, went into her boyfriend’s bathroom two years ago, and when he asked her to come out, she refused. So, he brought her food and water.

  • The light at the end of the tunnel: The outlook for FOI

    With higher temperatures and March sunshine, it really seems like our long Minnesota winter is coming to a close. This brings us a sense of optimism and hope.

    And it’s a metaphor for the future of freedom of information. I believe it is no coincidence that James Madison, drafter of the First Amendment, was born on March 16.

    This year, for the first time in a long time, there seems to be a real prospect that transparency in government could be restored.

  • Easter traditions provide lasting memories of childhood

    Growing up in a devout Catholic household, we celebrated holidays in many more ways than just going to church.

    On Sunday nights during the Christmas season, we’d light our own advent wreath and read passages from the Bible.

    On Friday nights during Lent, we’d attend the Stations of the Cross and follow it by attending the parish fish fry.

    We’d always have to give up at least one of our favorite treats during Lent, and our parents made sure we stuck to it.

  • Sunshine Week is about your right to information

    Last week I sounded a bit like a broken record here in the Beacon newsroom.

    “It’s not about us, it’s about the public,” I said repeatedly; so much so that a co-worker pointed it out to me.

    But it was an important point I had to make.

    In preparation for our Sunshine Week issue, we visited 19 different local agencies throughout the county making public records requests at each agency.

    Last week, we called every agency we visited to make a public records request.

  • Coupon scam teaches difficult lesson

    One night I logged into my e-mail account to find 923 messages; 922 of them were junk.

    My mom said she never wanted to be that popular. But, I am thanks to a little faux pas I committed a few weeks ago.

    There I was, minding my own business, checking my 14 e-mails when something in the subject–line caught my eye. It said, “Free coupons and baby gear.”

    I couldn’t resist, so I clicked on it. The message showed a cute little smiling baby, along with the brand names Huggies, Johnson & Johnson and Gerber.

  • Some issues to consider when choosing the next president

    I am not a paid political pundit or an elected official, but I am a political observer who has studied the platforms of the remaining presidential candidates.

    After studying those platforms, I am convinced some of the most brilliant minds go unheard because society is more impressed with those who have money, prestige and status than they are with those who have common sense.

    The question every voter should ask during this election year is which presidential candidate will protect the physical safety and the economic plight of America regardless of race, color or creed?

  • Open government is good government

    The early leaders of our country held widely divergent views on many topics, but their writings reflect a common appreciation of the importance of the right to know.

    These leaders recognized that in order for the new democracy to survive, public access was essential. As James Madison wrote: "[A] people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

    Sunshine Week celebrates the people's right to access the records and proceedings of their government and continue a centuries-old tradition of public access in America.

  • Why doesn't 'Taliban' scare us the way 'communists' used to?

    As a kid, I knew little about politics. To me, Jimmy Carter was a man who liked peanuts and Ronald Reagan was a former actor who thought jelly beans were so cool he had some stashed away on a space shuttle for astronauts.

    I spent more time listening to First Lady Nancy Reagan telling me to “say no to drugs” than any of the president’s proposals to fix the economy or his take on the state of the union.

  • Sunshine Week: Shining a light on public information

    Public records and open meetings laws in North Carolina exist for one reason—to ensure that government is conducted in the open.

    Public business, according to state law, must be done in public.

    The public’s access to the government process, whether it’s access to meetings or to information or documents, is a right, not a privilege.

    While there are nine specific, and likely overused, provisions that allow public bodies to convene in closed session, action must be taken in open session.