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Press Release

Monday, March 16, 2009

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

Governor Crist Pledges Continued Commitment to Open Government

~ Addresses First Amendment luncheon, hosts reception for essay contest winners ~

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today, while addressing the First Amendment Foundation, pledged his continued commitment to making state and local government more accessible to the public. Later today, at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion honoring open government, he will recognize the winners of the 2009 Sunshine Week Essay Contest, which invited Florida high school students to identify how Florida’s open government laws and access to public records strengthens citizens’ civil rights and liberties.

"Open government is vital to Florida citizens, who have a right to hold government accountable,” Governor Crist said. “I want to thank the First Amendment Foundation for supporting this administration’s efforts. I also commend our three student winners, as well as the hundreds of Florida high school students who participated in this essay contest. These young people are our future leaders, and it is encouraging to see them getting involved early in the democratic process."

The 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 $1,500 scholarship. All winners will be honored during an event at the Governor’s Mansion. The 2009 winners are as follows:

  • First Place: Sarah Kate Darville of Coral Springs, 12th grade, Coral Glades High School
  • Second Place: Mark Wichrowski of Apopka, 12th grade, Bishop Moore Catholic High School
  • Third Place: Lydia Mansfield of Pembroke Pines, 10th grade, West Broward High School

The essay contest’s Supporting Sponsors are Florida Education Foundation and LexisNexis; Teen Outreach Sponsor is Florida Trend magazine's Next—Your Future After High School in Florida. The Open Government Essay Contest was also supported by the Governor’s Volunteer Florida Foundation, the Executive Office of the Governor and the Governor’s Mansion Foundation.

About Governor Crist’s Commitment to Open Government

Governor Crist made his commitment to Florida’s Sunshine Laws evident in his inaugural address. As Florida’s 44th Governor, he made open government a top priority. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln, pledging under his watch that Florida government would be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The next day, 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. The Governor created a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information from day one.

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 three public hearings throughout the state. The commission submitted its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the end of 2008.

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 created a partnership with Google Inc. to make state agencies’ Web sites more accessible to the citizens of Florida.

About Sunshine Week

In 2002, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday to increased 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 2005 and each year thereafter.

On March 13, 2009, Governor Crist issued “A Week of Sunshine” Proclamation recognizing March 15-21, 2009, as Sunshine Week for the citizens of Florida. The proclamation urges citizens to celebrate Florida’s dedication to making state and local government more accessible to the public. This evening, Governor Crist will host a reception honoring Sunshine Week and the student essay contest winners.

For more information on Open Government, please visit: www.flgov.com/og_home.