The state of Florida is recognized worldwide as The Sunshine State, and that recognition applies not just to the sun that warms our heartland and beaches, it has also come to describe a state government that is open and accessible to all citizens, most clearly expressed in our state’s Sunshine and Open Government laws.
But a profound and dangerous darkness has overtaken every corner of state government, especially in Tallahassee. Gov. Rick Scott recently boldly acknowledged this creeping darkness when he asserted that “longstanding convention and tradition” were the explanation for blatant violations of the law. But neither convention nor tradition can be any excuse for violations of the law for those entrusted with government power any more than such excuses can be cited by gangs or organized criminals when they break the laws of the land.
It must be recognized that Florida’s Constitution provides every one of us the fundamental right to have a government which is honest, which is responsive and with all affairs conducted with openness, integrity and full disclosure. But it is clear from the scandals that are seeping out of every corner that this is not the case. The current conflicts and scandals represent a real crisis in state government. Citizens from every corner of this state, from Pensacola to The Keys are becoming acutely aware that their government is broken.
In the middle of this we should all take a moment to recognize the sacrifices of those among us who heed the call to serve in government. While the attacks on high-level staff have captured media attention, we all need to recognize that attacks on public servants are not isolated to those at the top of these organizations. Those employees who serve within state government must be free to openly challenge and question their organizations just as citizens must be free to challenge and question their government. And when it appears that state employees are reasonably afraid to speak out, citizens must stand up and speak out for those employees and give clear voice to their concerns.
We should all take a moment to be reminded of the critical role played by our free press, the sacred fourth branch of government. All forms of press, from print to broadcast, local, state and national are under extraordinary budget pressures that severely limit their ability to carry out their critical function. We must all recognize the dire consequences of a strained fourth branch and take real steps to breathe new life and support into these organizations as they transition into this new age of media.
It is time the citizens of this state wake up, become more engaged and take a far more active role in this government that wields such awesome power over every one of us. The obligation of citizens to participate in their government does not end at Election Day, every one of us have a sacred obligation to participate and directly challenge when appropriate, when government oversteps their bounds. In Florida, this time is now.
Original article here.