The foundational premise of public notices is that they are put in places where the “public” has a reasonable opportunity to “notice” them.
This means that they are traditionally carried in the mainstream media that most of the population sees.
Newspapers fulfill this role by being the far-dominant media in virtually all communities, as well as being a neutral third party in the notice process, and providing a permanent, unchangeable record of what and when.
Websites have some unique benefits in accessibility that complement newspapers, but can never become a substitute for the credibility and permanence of print media.
For that reason, we support strengthening the current official newspaper laws.
Presently, newspapers are required to also carry public notices on their website if they have one. We would support adding a requirement for any official newspaper to do both; that it must have a website to qualify as an official newspaper.
This would preserve the integrity of public notices while answering some of the questions about accessibility, electronic communication preferences, etc.
It keeps public notices in places that are highly viewed and easy to find.
The alternative is for notices to be put only on government websites.
Then, you as a citizen, are expected to visit your local city or township, county, and school district websites each separately on a regular basis just to see if there might be any notices that are of concern to you.
Isn’t it much better to have them delivered right to you through the local media instead of having to hunt for something that might not exist?
March 16-22 is Sunshine Week, a national campaign to promote openness in government and access to public information in many areas including and beyond public notices.
All this applies to our quality of life.
You can look at it as “half full” and the many freedoms we have with the openness in government we enjoy, such as even being able to write a column like this.
Or you can look at it as “half empty” with the freedoms we have left as government intrudes further and further into our lives every year, every day.
Openness “transparency” is the new buzzword in government is such a huge part of our quality of life.
Back to 1776, our founding fathers put in place many checks and balances to keep people in control of their government, not the other way around.
I could go into all kinds of examples of how that is no longer the case, but today’s point is preserving the value of public notices by maintaining and strengthening the current process:
• Newspapers are still by far the most-viewed medium.
• They offer third-party credibility.
• It’s cheaper to use the existing publishing system than for government to create its own, not to mention other major concerns when government becomes the publisher.
Our quality of life is at stake.