Utah holds a distinguished reputation as the new Silicon Valley or, more fondly, is referred to as the Silicon Slopes. Thus, it is not surprising that in 2014 the Utah Legislature enacted the Open Records Portal, a website designed to encourage government transparency and accountability. Since its infancy, the public has submitted over 2000 records requests through the portal to state and local government agencies. Citizens are able to use the portal to shine light into the dark corners of government and we are reminded that transparency is crucial to a thriving democracy.
One such citizen, an early adopter of the portal, is Mark Allen, founder of Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon (PPAFC). Mark can attest that the portal has enabled PPAFC to “work hard and shed light on issues” concerning the water quality in American Fork Canyon that otherwise would remain unnoticed by the public. In his opinion, “[t]he website has been a breath of fresh air and a powerful tool for discovering truth and stopping inappropriate governance or lack thereof in this canyon.” Mark also pointed out that the portal is easy to use and, although not a perfect system, he has found that those in charge of maintaining and improving the system are very responsive and helpful to the public’s needs.
A similar sentiment is echoed by Michelle Gregory, who is the Adult Protective Services records officer for the Utah Department of Human Services. Michelle has been using the Open Records Portal in her position since 2015. In her assessment of the system, “[b]eing a regular user has made it very convenient, practical, and easy for me when it comes to helping and servicing our constituents.” The portal has become an essential tool in her workplace to respond to citizens, attorneys, and insurance companies’ records requests.
It is clear that the Open Records Portal is “A Portal to Sunshine” no matter if you happen to be a private citizen requesting records to improve public awareness on an important matter, or a government employee responding to request and promoting transparency. The state of Utah is a proponent of government transparency and accountability and it will continue to improve capabilities and provide records access on the portal for the public’s convenience. On behalf of the Utah State Archives and Michelle, we “invite you to navigate it if you haven’t already!”
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