Sunday, March 13, 2005


No, it doesn't have anything to do with the weather.

The event originally was called Sunshine Sunday, and was originated by a group of Florida newspaper editors after lawmakers sought to close more public records in the wake of 9/11. The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the First Amendment Foundation joined in, and because of it's success the American Society of Newspaper Editors is asking it's members nationwide to raise awareness all week about the importance of open government and public records access.

Florida is one of the pioneer states in creating "Government In The Sunshine". While the law we know by that name was not passed until 1967, and many of it's protections became part of the state constitution in 1992, the first public records inspection law in the Sunshine State was actually passed in 1909. It mandated that state and local government records were open to public inspection unless there was a statutory exemption.

The importance of open government is vital for everyone. While it doesn't stop corrupton or bad decision making on the part of our public officials, it makes such activity more difficult and makes it much easier for citizens to see "who's being naughty or nice".

And it's not just for the benefit of the news media, either. The law allows anyone to request public records.

The Daytona Beach News Journal had several volunteer staff members request a variety of public records from area governmental agencies. While some failed the test, much of the problem was not due to deliberate stonewalling, but a lack of training for employees and officials in areas such as requiring the requesters' name or to submit a written request, in some cases demanding to know why the information is being requested. You don't have to provide your name or why you want the information; agencies are required by law to give it to you except in some very narrowly defined cases.

A free society requires and demands an open government.


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