STN Attends Governor’s Luncheon on Transparency


Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Photo by Doug Marrin.

Sun Times News Publisher/Owner Chuck Colby and this reporter attended the Michigan Press Association Annual Seminar in Lansing. Editorial sessions often gravitated to and revolved around greater government accountability and transparency, a theme Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer seemed to support in her luncheon address.

The Governor emphasized the importance of transparency, truth, and tenacity in government and journalism. Whitmer opened her speech with, “We know that Michiganders value transparency. They spoke with a clear voice last November when they overwhelmingly passed Proposal 1. The legislature is now in the throes of enacting legislation to implement Proposal 1, and I'm excited about working with them to get this done before the end of this term.”

Approved by voters in 2022, Proposal 1 is a constitutional amendment that requires members of the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general to file annual public financial disclosure reports after 2023, including assets, liabilities, income sources, future employment agreements, gifts, travel reimbursements, and positions held in organizations except religious, social, and political organizations. It requires the legislature to implement but not limit or restrict reporting requirements.

Governor Whitmer referred to her early administrative actions, stating, "Just weeks after I took office in 2019, I signed several executive directives that outlined the Michigan Sunshine Plan."

The Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act are two laws known as Michigan's “sunshine laws,” designed to make government processes and information more open to the public.

Whitmer explained the move was in response to Michiganders' overwhelming support for Proposal 1, aimed at enhancing governmental transparency. She underscored her commitment by being the first Michigan governor to voluntarily disclose personal financial details, including income tax returns, travel records, and public calendars.

Transitioning to the theme of truth, Governor Whitmer spoke about the challenges journalists face in disseminating accurate and reliable information in an age dense with information. She acknowledged the critical role of savvy and old-school journalism in today's society, particularly in the context of an overwhelming influx of data and the challenges of maintaining public trust in fundamental institutions - everything from medicine and science to government and journalism.

“And there are far too many people who are willing to post first and ask questions later,” continued the Governor. “The fog of social media warps our perspective by feeding us a version of the world designed to keep us scrolling, not substantively informed.”

In a spontaneous addition to her prepared remarks, Governor Whitmer touched upon the quality of tenacity, particularly among journalists working in hazardous conditions globally. She relayed a conversation with Maine Governor Janet Mills, highlighting the reliance on journalism for crucial information in emergent situations.

Concluding her address, Whitmer expressed a desire for collaboration between her administration and the press in achieving mutual goals. “It's important to see the humanity in one another, to laugh where we can because the work that we do is so important and so intense sometimes that sometimes we forget to do those things that are important as well. So, I know that together, we can build a brighter future for Michigan. And I thank you for your hard work and for giving me a few minutes of your time today.”

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