Florida sunshine means more than a good tan

500-SUNSHINE-WEEK-2013Historic City News joins local news editors across the state during March 10-16 in observance of Sunshine Week 2013; shining a light on the importance of Florida’s sunshine and public access laws and their value to our readers and citizens in St Augustine and St Johns County.

Chapter 119 F.S. doesn’t just apply to daily news journals like Historic City News, or radio reporters, or television news anchors, or newspaper editors — it bolsters rights protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution for all citizens who seek to be informed about the activities of government at all levels.

“As a matter of policy, the protection of every person’s right of access to public records and government meetings is a high priority of Historic City News,” editor Michael Gold wrote in his announcement calling attention to the importance of Florida’s open records laws. “I can mark many advances over the past 30 years of scholarly and professional use of governmental records — technology continues to provide the single greatest opportunity for improvement, in my opinion.”

Every citizen in our participatory democracy has an inherent right to access to government meetings and public records; a right recognized in the writings of the father of our federal Constitution. An open and accessible government is vital to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and in the government’s ability to effectively serve its citizens.

James Madison wrote that “consent of the governed” requires that the people “be able to arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”. Sunshine Week commemorates the anniversary of James Madison’s birth.

“We are moving towards a culture that embraces openness as a predicate of trust,” Gold, who is also a licensed private investigator, said. “Individuals enjoy a right to privacy — the government, and its operatives, do not.” During his term as president, John F. Kennedy often spoke about what he termed as “government secrecy” — calling the very concept as “repugnant”.

Historic City Companies, Inc., publishers of Historic City News, has prepared a short-list of local goals we believe can be achieved with elected and appointed government officials cooperation during the coming year. They will appear in Historic City News articles through the remainder of Sunshine Week and we will revisit and audit their progress again next year.

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