Citizens who support government with their hard-earned taxdollars deserve accountability. It’s no wonder that public noticespublished in newspapers are a cornerstone of open government.
Public notices have earned their place, and yet lawmakers andsome officials wage a continued assault against notices.
This month in Wisconsin, one governmental entity argued that ittakes too long for public notices in print to reach the intendedaudience. Earlier this year the Nebraska Legislature considered ahandful of proposals that could have removed notices fromnewspapers.
Fortunately, our lawmakers didn’t advance any of the proposals.Nebraska’s public notice laws remain among the strongest in thenation.
Rather than sticking with trusted newspaper notices, officialsseem to be enchanted with posting notices on government websites.Doing so might save the expense of publishing in legally designatednewspapers, but the idea is like leaving the fox to guard thechicken coop.
With notices in print, there’s no chance to alter them, asofficials might do if they could publish their own notices online.Also, newspapers provide affidavits that prove notices have beenpublished.
There are so many instances when notices have proven theirworth.
Nebraska government spends just pennies per resident duringmajor elections to publish in newspapers complete drafts ofproposed constitutional amendments.
The notice process also calls for governments to publishrequests for bids on important purchases of services and equipment.it was the notice process two years ago that helped NebraskaAuditor Mike Foley foil an attempt by a state psychologist to steera $200,000 contract for substance abuse counseling to a friend.
After Hurricane Katrina, the federal government decidedpublishing notices requesting bids would take too long. Lackingcompetitive manufacturers’ proposals, Uncle Sam wasted millions of tax dollars buying badly designed and shoddily built shelters forhurricane victims.
Some years ago, the law requiring U.S. banks to publishquarterly condition reports was quietly set aside. we have towonder if the banking crisis of 2009 might have been avoided ifAmericans had been able to monitor bank conditions moreclosely.
Our elected leaders know it is the government’s responsibilityto be open and accessible. it is citizens’ responsibility to keepwatch by reading public notices and news stories and attendingimportant governmental meetings.