Orlando Sentinel by Dana Cassidy
May 21, 2020
A University of Central Florida team is shining light on Winter Park’s government through a free, searchable database that accesses everything from campaign contributions to voting records.
Named WinterParkSunshine.org as a nod to Florida’s Sunshine Law for open government, a team from UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media made the tool so more than 30,000 residents can keep up with Winter Park’s community leaders.
This includes access to city commission meeting minutes, contracts, salaries and more.
“Enlightenment is the forerunner of knowledge, the forerunner of justice and the forerunner of society,” said Rick Brunson, project director and associate instructor of journalism at UCF’s Nicholson School.
Brunson said the site launched during Sunshine Week in March, an annual recognition of Florida’s public record laws. It’s being funded by a two-year grant of $125,000 funded by Glen Salow of Winter Park and the Salow Transparency Project.
Brunson and his students hope to expand into other Central Florida communities soon.
The site’s creation comes as smaller community newsrooms across the country have been trimmed to the bone or closed entirely, leaving cities like Winter Park with fewer watchdogs. A tool like the new website ensures a layer of transparency, Brunson said.
“Democracy doesn’t work if people don’t know,” he said.