Governor Charlie Crist issued “A Week of Sunshine” Proclamation received by Historic City News today recognizing March 15-21, 2008 as Sunshine Week for the citizens of the State of Florida.
The proclamation urges citizens to celebrate Florida’s dedication to making state and local government accessible and transparent to the public.
“The role of Florida’s government is to serve the people of Florida, and Florida’s Sunshine Laws give people the tools they need to hold their elected officials accountable,” said Governor Crist. “I am proud to defend Florida’s open government laws and am committed to keeping them among the strongest in the nation.”
In 2002, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday to increase public and legislative awareness of Florida’s strong public record and open meeting laws. After Florida’s trailblazing actions to establish these laws many other states adopted Sunshine Sunday, which resulted in the American Society of Newspaper Editors designating a Sunshine Week in March of 2005 and each year thereafter.
Governor Crist emphasized his dedication to Sunshine Laws in his inaugural address. As Florida’s 44th Governor, he has made open government a top priority and, echoing Abraham Lincoln, pledged that under his watch Florida’s government would be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” In his first Executive Order, Governor Crist established the Office of Open Government and charged it with providing the Governor’s office and all state agencies the tools necessary to serve the people of Florida in a professional and efficient manner. From his first day as Governor, he created a dialogue about the importance of open government and citizens’ access to information.
The Office of Open Government has collaborated with 36 state agencies and 11 State Universities to assist citizens seeking access to public records and the public servants who work for them. Additionally, Governor Crist changed the clemency process to make it more transparent for clemency applicants. Furthermore, he issued Executive Order 07-294, creating a Citizens Open Government Bill of Rights to support citizen access to Florida state agencies. Governor Crist also partnered with Google Inc. to make state Web sites more accessible to the citizen’s of Florida through online search engines.
On June 19, 2007, the Governor appointed the Commission on Open Government Reform. He charged the nine-member Commission to review and evaluate the public’s right of access to government meetings and records. The commission held four public hearings throughout the state, hearing suggestions from Floridians. The Commission submitted its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives on January 27, 2009.
On March 16, 2009, Governor Crist plans to announce the winners of the Sunshine Week Essay Contest, which invited Florida high school students to submit essays relating to the benefits of Florida’s Sunshine Laws. This year students’ essays addressed the issue, “Describe the various public records available under Florida’s open government laws and how access to these records strengthens citizens’ civil rights and liberties.” The first place winner will receive a $3,500 scholarship, the second place winner will receive a $2,000 scholarship, and third place will receive a $1,000 scholarship. All winners will receive recognition at an event at the Governor’s Mansion.