Basking in the Sunshine
Lynda Keever, Publisher
From March 16-22, Florida celebrated Sunshine Week, and it had nothing to do with the weather. Instead, the week commemorated Florida’s dedication to making government accessible to the public through its Sunshine Laws.
These laws are not only important to journalists, but also to you as engaged readers. Sunshine Laws help journalists report fairly and accurately on the issues that are important to you. In addition, many of you are business executives, and the Sunshine Laws allow companies to get information about legal policies, government regulations and bidding processes that impact business. Most important is the idea that transparency in government is fundamental to democracy.
From the beginning of his term, Gov. Charlie Crist has made known his commitment to Sunshine Laws by establishing the Office of Open Government. JoAnn Carrin was appointed to manage the office, which provides all of Florida’s agencies with the tools and training resources needed to assure compliance with the state’s open government laws.
“We believe that every Floridian has the right to access public records and government meetings in Florida,” Carrin says. “We’re striving to practice high standards of public participation in government.”
One of the ways the office encouraged participation was by hosting an essay contest for high school students. More than 800 students submitted essays discussing open government. Our teen magazine, Florida Trend’s NEXT: Your Future After High School in Florida, was the outreach sponsor for the contest. We were happy to promote the contest in e-newsletters to thousands of students and their teachers. Other sponsors and supporters included LexisNexis, First Amendment Foundation and Volunteer Florida Foundation.
Jordan Loar, a senior at Fort Walton Beach High School, won first place and a $5,000 scholarship. In her essay, Jordan writes, “Implementing transparency, accountability, and openness into the government’s administration secures the trust and confidence of the public toward the government that serves them.”
Pat Gleason, chief Cabinet aide and special counsel for open government, says that the essays were impressive.
Ashley Cisneros (far right), editor of Florida Trend’s NEXT, assists Gov. Charlie Crist and JoAnn Carrin (far left) in presenting a $5,000 scholarship to Jordan Loar, winner of the open government essay contest.
“It’s clear that the student writers spent time researching the history of Florida’s Sunshine Laws in addition to showing how open government benefits our
communities,” she says.
To read Jordan’s essay along with
the essays of the two runners-up, go to
What Jordan said very well in her essay echoes Trend editor Mark Howard’s belief that Sunshine Laws are important not just for journalists and business people, but for all citizens. “Our elected officials should want us, the people, to be proud of what they do, proud of the vigor with which they represent us and proud of the way our system of government functions.”
I congratulate all the students who participated in the contest. Florida’s young people are becoming more knowledgeable about the democratic process and our state’s government — and that’s something we should all celebrate.
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