Open records are important or they aren't. The public has a right to an accountable government or they don't.
It really isn't a complicated issue.
Gov. Tom Wolf's position, however, is unnecessarily garbled.
During the coronavirus pandemic and the state's shifting series of lockdown and social distancing protocols, freely available information has not exactly been a priority.
That isn't something exclusive to Pennsylvania. It's been an issue from the District of Columbia to California, in red states like Texas and blue states like Hawaii.
In Pennsylvania, Wolf says the issue with unfulfilled Right-to-Know Law requests is largely due to personnel issues. Since the governor's disaster declaration in March, some people have worked from home and might not have had access to specific documents. Some people have been laid off. Others are focusing more on pandemic-related issues.
Those things do explain why requests are delayed. They don't explain why something hasn't been done about it.
Wolf knows this is a problem. We know he knows this because he said it this week in the York Dispatch.
The governor said if he were a legislator, he would have voted for the bill introduced by Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County.
That bill would force response and fulfillment of Right-to-Know requests in a timely manner, even during an emergency. It passed unanimously -- a truly rare feat -- in the House and the Senate.
"In terms of being open, I'm fine with (the bill)," Wolf said.
He still intends to veto the legislation when it comes to his desk.
He says it would release information not covered by the existing law or other federal guidelines. But new law supersedes old law every day.
He says it would put workers at risk. If workers can safely isolate and distance in schools -- which Pennsylvania is on track to open next month -- it seems like they could be safe in a room full of filing cabinets or computers.
Wolf's largest problem throughout the covid-19 crisis isn't that he has been the ranting dictator or overreacting coward many opponents have painted him. It is precisely what is happening with this issue.
He wants to play both sides at the same time.
If you believe in openness and transparency, then you qualify that as being when it is simple or convenient. Government needs to be accountable even when it is difficult.
If Wolf believes the people have a right to know, then he shouldn't exercise his right to veto.
Originally published by The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.