2011-04-20 / Opinion

Keep "Public" In Public Notices

Do you want to know when public utilities, like electric companies, are raising rates? What if your neighbor wants to have his property rezoned?

Have you ever looked for your name in a list of unclaimed funds?

Do you want the government to get plenty of bidders for taxpayer-funded work like repaving or rebuilding roads? Do you want to see the issues that will be voted upon in the next election?

Right now, such information is required to be published as public notices in local newspapers. Part of the enjoyment of reading a newspaper is the joy of discovery... finding out things you didn’t know. Citizens should be able to read about what their government is doing and how taxpayer money is being used.

But the administration of John Kasich, Ohio governor, wants to change that. If he has his way, public notices will appear only once in a printed newspaper, and only if the newspaper meets new qualifications that will exclude many members of the Ohio Newspaper Association, to which this newspaper belongs.

The much-smaller notice would have a web link, forcing readers who want to learn more to visit a government owned and -operated website the state would fund, create, and manage– even though Ohio newspapers already provide this service through www.PublicNoticesOhio.com at no charge to taxpayers.

Have you ever visited a state government website? They are great ways to hide things, because the visitor has to figure out how to find the information they want. All too often, the visitor gives up because what you call something isn’t what the government calls it.

The Archbold Buckeye also posts public notices published in the print edition under the “Public Notices” link at www.ArchboldBuckeye.com. Every visitor to the website can easily read the public notices published in the paper that week.

Government needs more transparency, not less. Government officials know that if they tell people they need to search for the information, most people won’t do it because they get too frustrated trying to find it!

True, public notices have a monetary cost. But it’s very small, and in some cases, like notices about delinquent taxes, the government makes more than it spends through collections or recoveries.

Mr. Kasich likes to say, “It’s only common sense.” Well, it’s only common sense that governments and public utilities be required to continue to publish public notices in local newspapers.

What are you trying to hide, Mr. Kasich?

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