Keep public informed

By Jackson Citizen Patriot staff

Every time a city, township or county board conducts certain types of legal business, they are supposed to give notice to you, the resident. Government’s business is the public’s business, after all.

Today, such notices must appear in publications of general circulation (newspapers like this one, for example), but not for long if a few state lawmakers get their way. Bills offered last month in the state House would let governments put legal notices on their own Web sites.

Would the public truly be informed? Let’s ask the question another way: How often do you visit Jackson County government’s Web site?

Changing this requirement absolutely is not in the public’s interest. The idea of sunshine laws like these is to give information to people so that they can be part of the governmental process when they want.

Burying notices on municipal Web sites does the opposite: It forces people to play detective to find out what elected officials are doing.

Yes, newspapers like the Citizen Patriot benefit financially from such legal notices. Not by much, however. They are a small slice of the newspaper’s advertising revenue.

So we are arguing here in the public’s interest, not our own. People should be able to expect their local governments will not operate in secret. Part of that expectation is that public notices should be conveniently available.

State lawmakers should leave the existing law alone.

Jackson Citizen Patriot

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