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Sunshine Week: Shining Light Onto Public Governance

In observance of Sunshine Week, Patch is providing some information on your rights to observe your government in action, and some resources for you to explore open records yourself.

Want to know how much the school superintendent makes? That's an open record.

Want to watch Muskego officials deliberate and decide what to do about a proposed development? That's an open meeting. 

Wisconsin has a long history of open government, and strong laws that support it.  Patch is observing Sunshine Week 2012, which begins today. As part of that observation, we want to share with you some of the open government resources available to anyone. 

You have the right to see the records the government keeps — from health inspection reports to employee salaries to the entire municipal or school district budget — and to be present at the meetings where governmental business gets done. The expectation is that government is open — if they want to close the meeting or keep a document confidential, they need to say why. And in most cases, they aren't allowed to ask who you are or why you want to see the record you're requesting.

If you know of an open government issue you'd like Muskego Patch to look into, email Local Editor Denise Konkol.

See for yourself

The Internet has made it easier to access a lot of public information. As governments go digital, the amount of information available online has grown. Here are links to some online databases you can search.  

Local resources

Don't see what you're looking for? Visit (W182 S8200 Racine Avenue) and inquire.

School district information - no records seem accessible on line, but visit the (S87 W18763 Woods Road) to request them.

Don't see it on the city's website? Additional records searches, like health inspections, tax data, etc. are on the Waukesha County records site. Additional records involving civil or criminal cases will require a visit to the , 515 W Moreland Boulevard, Waukesha.

State resources

If you want to dig into the legal aspects of it, here are links to the statutes and guidelines from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. 

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