Archived Story

Just say “No”

Published 9:39am Thursday, May 12, 2011

If state legislators have their way, you’ll have to either own a computer or have access to one to learn of current and future plans mapped out by your local government entity.
House Bill 472 and its companion version in the NC Senate (SB 773) are proposals that apply to all counties and municipalities in the state. This legislation, if approved, will eliminate the requirement for local government to publish public notices in newspapers.
Roanoke-Chowan Publications joins with our fellow newspapers statewide as well as with the NC Press Association in calling for the defeat of this proposed legislation as it tears at the heart of fair, open and transparent government.
The way public notices are currently handled – by an outside source (newspapers of general circulation) – maintains honesty and public trust of our local government. As required by law, they must legally advertise public hearings, rezoning requests, tax payment issues, etc. In turn, we provide an affidavit proving that the notice was published on a certain date or dates.
The public is accustomed to knowing these notices are published on a regular basis in their local newspaper. If that newspaper serves more than one town or county, as is the case of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, readers can easily keep track of governmental affairs within one source. Imagine how many individual websites one would have to visit, if you do have a computer with broadband access, to accomplish such a feat.
We’ll be honest….publishing such notices is a source of revenue. But it’s not about the money in this case, rather it concerns a matter we fully support – open and transparent government.
This proposed legislation is scary in the fact that it allows local government to police itself. They will have full control of the material published on their website. They will have the final say in what information is shared with its citizens.
That is simply unacceptable; it holds local government less accountable. We urge you to contact local state legislators – District 5 Representative Annie Mobley, District 27 Representative Michael Wray and District 4 Senator Ed Jones – and tell them to vote “No” to HB 472 and SB 773.
- The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

  1. lemonshirt

    I’m sure in 1775 the paid Town Crier lobbied against the requirement to post public notices in writing. After all, What about the poor folks that couldn’t read!!?

    The information revolution is over. Paper lost. …though I guess there are still some people who haven’t read the terms of surrender.

    Not to mention the savings to our government in publishing costs. (Isnt “cut government spending” the rally latest public rally cry?) It would be remarkably easy to format government websites to allow citizens to register to receive automatic notification, rather than having to hunt for it. A win-win for all concerned.

    Suggest Removal

  2. Matt Peeler

    Looking at HB 472 the concern expressed about “maintains honesty and public trust of our local government” seems to be addressed. G.S. 160A is how cities and towns are to operate, and G.S 153A is how counties are to operate. This legislation provides a means of utilizing current technology by adding language in the GS that enables local governments to utilize this new technology. It is not removing any of the safeguards the citizens being governed enjoy.

    A true copy of the notice is to be kept on file. The local governments website is to have a link to all the notices they are required to publish on the homepage of the website as well as a copy of the notice itself. This means that a concerned citizen has at least two locations within the city government from which to see the notices; a hardcopy of the notice at the clerk’s office and a soft copy found on the website. If the local government accepts this new legislation as an ordinance within their local government operations, it will allow concerned citizens to have 24/7 access to notifications at their home instead of having to travel to the court house to see the full notification. It requires an indexed methodology of the notices which should provide a better means of finding the notice a person is looking for. Yes, it will required a person to look at potentially two websites for notices that impact where they live. A person who lives in a city or town would also have to look at their counties website for county related notices.

    I am not sure how many notices a local government is suppose to publish in a year, and I readily see a need for publishing these notices in a paper in the past to provide public notification. I see the rational for notification of the people. At the time a statute was written to notify the people, the internet, and probably TV was not in wide use. These notices found in the paper provide the public with a means of notification so an individual did not have to go to the county court house on a routine basis just to see if their local government was proposing something. At that time, a public newspaper and official handbills were probably the only methods of informing the public that their government was trying to do something and to go to a certian place at a certian time to have your voice heard on the subject.

    I wonder if in the past there was an argument to eliminate posting of government sponsored handbills throughout the region and just going to the papers with the notification ever happened? Was there an argument that the local paper was delivered throughout most of the county, city or town, and that handbills were costly as well as an eyesore to the community and that the local paper could do the job of public notification just as well as the handbills? Technology helped the papers by recognizing them as a repository of official notification. This change to how counties, cities and towns notify the people is another means of technology being incorporated into our daily lives.

    I do see a problem with the assumption found within this legislation that the State has 100% internet coverage, which was mentioned in this article. A conditional clause should be included that would require continued mandates in local papers if there is not adequate internet coverage within the local governments authority. Yet this clause may be pointless as the local government does not have to adopt this legislation into their way of handling the people’s business.

    The proposed statue does provide “The governing body of a county may adopt ordinances providing that any notice it is required by law to publish, whether under G.S. 1-597 or under any other general law or local act, may, in lieu of or in addition to such notice, be published as provided by this section.” For those local governments that know they do not have adequate internet coverage, I would hope they would continue to utilize news papers as a methodology to notify the people. The people of the region speaking up at the meeting where this new legislation is to be followed should be the venue of discussing how the county, city or town will recognize this new technology.

    The local government has to adopt an ordinance to go to a web based notification system, which enables the people of the community to discuss this as well as have their voices heard on this ordinance. The people may bring up the concern of lack of internet coverage and the local government would have to take that into consideration before accepting this legislation into their day to day operations. The community has the opportunity to have a voice in how fully the local government is to utilize this new tool of notification, or even if they wish to go to it. This notification to adopt this ordinance will be presented to the people through notification in the various papers.

    The lead in to this story, “Just say ‘NO’ This proposed legislation is scary in the fact that it allows local government to police itself” caught my eye and encouraged me to look at this legislation. In it I did not see a lessening of any notification requirements to the public. What I did see was the legislators providing counties, cities and towns with other options of how they keep the people they govern informed. The internet is a technology that many throughout our State utilize. This legislation enables counties, cities and towns to recognize and utilize this technology. Being mindful of our government is a proper action to support. However, after reading the proposed legislation, I do not see anything that triggers being scared that the various local governments are going to be able to work any differently than the way they have been doing for years.

    Suggest Removal

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