Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16: Three Cheers For Public Openness

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Yay, public.

Three cheers (and more) to everyone who called, wrote, e-mailed, Tweeted and just yelled in protest of a proposal by Florida House Speaker Larry Cretul to privatize the audio records of calls to 911.

Cretul had added the measure to a legitimate proposal to improve training for 911 operators. John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, wanted to see the calls made private after Hoblick heard, on the news, the 911 call regarding his 16-year-old son, Jake, who died of a combination of alcohol and illegal prescription drugs, the Palm Beach Post reports today. The Post, The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times have reported on the Florida Farm Bureau's donations to the Republican Party of Florida.

Cretul's timing was lousy - the publication of his proposal came during Florida's Sunshine Week, when media across the state are publishing and airing stories and editorials about open government.

While Hoblick's grief for his son is understandable, so is that of the family of Denise Lee of Charlotte County. The Lee family wants to make sure the calls remain public, because 911 operators in that county mishandled calls when Denise was kidnapped. Denise Lee was later murdered.

The 911 system receives public money to operate. The public needs to know it is working properly, and the release of audio calls helps to guarantee that.

This Sunshine Week, Floridians have shown they understand what it means to have open records. Good for them.

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