The week of March 11th was Sunshine Week. Such has not been the case as of late in Cooper City. Sunshine Week is observed annually throughout the US to point out that the public's business must be open to the public and that Government, must be open to public inspection. It is a national 'open government' initiative spearheaded by the majority of Americans to raise the awareness and educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive secrecy.
It coincides with the birthday of James Madison, a Founding Father of our country known for his emphasis on the checks and balances in government and his advocacy of open government, a view that I continue to strongly support. Open government and transparency are essential to maintaining our freedoms from repression by government as well as free speech. As such, political discourse and full expression of opinion is a necessary and vital element for a healthy society to survive.
The words describing open government and transparency are words that may well be ignored. These words are being propagated yet ignored deep down in the bowels of the bureaucracy of government administrations. Given my experience and based on mine and other's observations, I have concluded and am disappointed to report that transparency and open government, along with freedom of speech, are not being put into practice in our city as required. We saw this in the recent State Attorney’s criminal investigation in Cooper City regarding secretly held meetings and again just last month regarding lack of notice to the public for Planning and Zoning Board meetings.
The Privacy and Freedom of Information Acts, along with constitutional amendments regarding Free Speech and Free Expression, are not meant to limit the flow of information and communication between the government and its electorate, but quite the opposite. The disregard by government of the clear language of the law is disheartening. It is quite appropriate that during Sunshine Week, although already passed, I bring out the turbulence that our local city government has created in abeyance of our Constitution and Sunshine laws.
I have placed on the agenda, an initiative to demand full, open and vast public notice of any and all ‘non-shade’ meetings in Cooper City. I am not referring to just the bare minimal legal requirements. We will see if my colleagues on the commission support your rights, or protect the established methods that smacks of a complete and arrogant disregard for our public duty, our Oath of Office and our collective consciousness when it comes to fully informing the public.
During Sunshine Week, hundreds of truly dedicated elected representatives who understand the great and vast importance of this issue, media organizations, publishers, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and other participants, engage in public discussion on the importance of open government throughout many coffee shops, gatherings with family and friends, news programs, featured articles and hundreds of opinion columns, Web pages and blogs, editorials, cartoons, public service advertising, public seminars and forums.