Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz has joined the board of directors of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government and will serve on its legislative committee. Formed in 2013, MiCOG focuses on educating residents statewide about their rights to access public records and require transparency from local and state governments, school boards and other public bodies.
Throughout its history the Mackinac Center has advocated for open, accountable government. The preamble of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act explains the importance of transparency: “It is the public policy of this state that all persons … are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act. The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.”
After joining the Mackinac Center in 2012, Reitz oversaw the launch of the Center’s Open Government Initiative, which promotes awareness of and improvements to the state’s transparency laws. Last year, the Center hosted a series of townhall meetings on Michigan’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts that included panelists from MiCOG as well as the Michigan Press Association, the ACLU of Michigan and The Center for Michigan. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation recently prevailed in a lawsuit against the city of Westland after suing over illegal fees the city was charging individuals who requested public records.
The Mackinac Center has also recommended improvements to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, which was enacted in 1976. Reitz noted that the Michigan Legislature took a step in the right direction when the state House passed House Bill 4001, which would make it easier and less costly for people to obtain government records.
“The Mackinac Center has several great tools in place to help people keep government accountable, especially our new VoteSpotter app that lets users give instant feedback to their legislators about key votes,” Reitz said. “Michigan Capitol Confidential, our award-winning news service, reports stories from all levels of government that people need to be aware of, and our MichiganVotes.org service describes every bill, amendment and resolution introduced in the Legislature in plain English. We also have comprehensive databases of school collective bargaining agreements, superintendent compensation and school funding reports.”
Also joining the MiCOG board is Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the ACLU of Michigan.