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How Florida Municipalities Are Using ClearPoint To Uphold Sunshine Laws
It’s one thing to comply with laws and another to champion them. Everything you need to address Florida’s sunshine laws is in ClearPoint.
Florida’s Sunshine Laws
Before we explain more about ClearPoint’s functionality, let’s do a quick review of some unique points of Florida’s open records laws. Throughout its 100+ years of experience enacting sunshine laws, the state of Florida has been renowned for its broad application of transparency. More recently, lawmakers have passed multiple exemptions to limit the power of sunshine laws, but Florida still proclaims its avid belief in open government.
Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, said, “In our state, transparency is not up to the whim or grace of public officials. Instead, it is an enforceable right of the people. The benefits of open government are frequently acknowledged…We live in a state that values open government for its own sake, and for that we should all be thankful.”
Any person, for any reason, can access state, county, and municipal records in Florida. The statute expansively defines “public record” as all “documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material...” (Fla. Stat. § 119.011(1) (1995)). For example, citizens can request to view all government tourism partnerships from a particular year or all complaints against a public official.
Exemptions to sunshine laws include things like the home addresses and phone numbers of law enforcement officers, firefighters, attorneys, and their families. Almost all exemptions can be categorized as protecting public health, public safety, and personal privacy.
Because these statues shift and evolve over time, Florida’s Attorney General's Office publishes an annual comprehensive guide called the Government-in-the-Sunshine manual. This manual helps public and governmental agencies understand the current requirements and exemptions to sunshine laws in Florida.
Easy Request Fulfillment With ClearPoint’s Software
First and foremost, you need to provide public records when requested—for the sake of everyone’s morale, this should be as quick and easy as possible. ClearPoint offers a variety of ways you can fulfill requests for public records:
Generate briefing books with any combination of information, including historical data, current data, charts, analysis, and more. Page layouts are customizable, giving you the ability to drag and drop specific criteria from your strategic plan onto each page, such as year-over-year department budget spend. You can pick and choose what to export in a report and the format, such as Excel, PPT, or PDF. In other words, you have several ways to easily disseminate specific, requested information.
Charts are important because they make it easy to display and summarize quantitative data. Create tailor-made data visualizations in ClearPoint—simply choose the type of chart, select time periods, and add custom labels and icons. Include these charts in your briefing books or as part of a standalone report created for a citizen’s unique request.
Have board meeting notes that need to be publicized? Upload any supporting documents you want to access or share to ClearPoint as attachments. They’ll be readily accessible and easy to export out of the system.
In ClearPoint, you decide how to track your measures, and set the criteria to determine whether your objectives, measures, and initiatives are on target. Once you’ve entered your numbers, the calculations are automatic. You can be confident there’s no room for error and no one is fudging numbers. Not only can you trust the data, but you can keep your evaluation criteria consistent to help you clearly communicate progress and results to citizens.
Excel and other project management tools can track and measure progress, but ClearPoint allows you to see the big picture of your strategic plan and communicate results. Especially when displaying information online, you’re able to show how your initiatives tie to long-term goals and the progress on each. This shows citizens how day-to-day work aligns with the strategy.
Proactive Transparency With ClearPoint’s Dashboards
Providing public records upon request is one side—the reactive side—of the sunshine laws coin. Think about dashboards as the proactive side. Dashboards are a way to spotlight city priorities and tell a story with your data, in a format that doesn’t require hours of time and an advanced degree to understand. Your dashboard will live on your city’s website, for all the world to see, and showcase data before citizens have to ask for it.
ClearPoint’s dashboards are special because they are:
- Mobile responsive. Reach a broader range of constituents on the device they prefer.
- Highly customizable. Brand the information by adding city colors, icons, and more.
- Easy to update and publicize. There’s no double data entry—once your information is in ClearPoint, you don’t have to enter it anywhere else, and you can refresh it on your website in a few clicks.
Examples Of Using Dashboards To Uphold Florida’s Sunshine Laws
Below are four real-life examples of ClearPoint clients who are successfully complying with Florida’s sunshine laws. In each of these visuals, you’ll see ClearPoint’s flexibility, from colors and styling to terminology and goals. There’s no single right way to exhibit transparency, but our system will always conform to your structure...versus the other way around.
Sarasota’s dashboard graphically displays its eight strategic goals. Citizens can click on each goal to see performance measures and results, which are summarized and presented as visual snapshots.
The city’s dashboard reflects its use of the STAR Communities framework—this independent panel compares communities’ progress on sustainability based on standardized objectives and measures. The dashboard highlights key performance measures and results in a colorful, visual format. West Palm Beach is the only city in Florida to earn a 4-STAR certification and is part of What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative to enhance the use of data and evidence.
Tamarac’s dashboard is noteworthy because of how it incorporates citizen feedback into the strategic goals. The city prioritizes what citizens have expressed is important and focuses on improving results from citizens’ perspectives. As you drill down into each goal, you’ll see just how diverse and customizable ClearPoint’s charts can be.
Fort Lauderdale proactively gathered citizen input to create its vision plan and chose to display the plan in a unique way. The color-coded wheel is interesting, understandable, and easy to navigate. The colors clearly show the vision plan’s progress toward overall goals, and you can click on each element of the wheel for more details. Fort Lauderdale is also part of What Works Cities.
Do you want to be the fifth city on this list to successfully comply with Florida’s sunshine laws? Be proactive about government record requests and keep citizens informed with ClearPoint. Try our software for free—there’s no catch and no commitment. Just fill out this short form and you’ll get instant access to a ClearPoint demo account. If you love it, we’ll set you up with a free 15-day demo.