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Birds of the same feathers: Jerry and Alan take on Florida’s Sunshine

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What does a former offshore energy company employee and a church Minister have in common? Aside from being members of Florida’s “Sunshine Brigade” -- a First Amendment Foundation coalition of open government and citizen activists who “have been chosen for membership because of their commitment to government oversight and holding government accountable for its actions” -- both Jerry Couey and Alan Isaacson have a burning desire to bring more “sunshine” to Florida.

Jerry and Alan, have fought tirelessly for 5 years to force TEAM Santa Rosa, a publicly-funded economic development organization, into compliance with Florida's open government laws. They successfully lobbied their state attorney to investigate the TEAM's sunshine violations and have brought a significant amount of public attention to the issue. A native of Milton, Florida, Jerry is no stranger to citizen activism. His experience in new media and technology spurred changes in email and social networking policies in both Santa Rosa County and Escambia County which in the past had prohibited use of private email and social networking sites for public business.

Undaunted by the challenges of dealing with public officials, Jerry has continued his fight to open up Florida’s open meetings law -- providing Floridans a chance to speak during public meetings. In march last year, he was selected by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors for his role in bringing attention to citizens’ first amendment rights. Using his community website, santarosaspeaks.com together with his cable television show Mediacom Santa Rosa Week , the former offshore worker for an energy company has generated the attention of over 10,000 views with 19 subscribers who have come to rely on his citizen input on how to improve their state’s sunshine laws.

As for Alan, his journey to becoming a volunteer for streamlining requests for public record emails, started when he discovered inconsistencies and back door politics aimed at benefiting specific Political Action Committees in Santa Rosa county. Now actively serving as an adviser to county boards that are not fully aware of the state’s open government laws, Alan is using his System Coordinator background to help other residents keep “sunshine” in their local government.

These Sunshine Brigade members have proved that you don’t have to be a specialist to demand for openness from government. But being a member with the First Amendment Foundation -- one of Florida’s longest advocate for protecting sunshine in the state sure does come in handy. Jerry and Alan also have been involved in putting together a discussion on the importance of open government and open-access "sunshine" laws in Florida. The Sunshine Summit is organized as part of this coming Sunshine Week (March 11- 17) by The Florida Society of News Editors and the First Amendment Foundation. The event will take place on March 12 and will shade some light on accessing public records and meetings.

We recognize Alan and Jerry for their tremendous work and are proud to have them as nominees for our OpenGov Champions initiative!