The Last Open Door
January 19, 2023 | View PDF
We have read, been told and heard through the grapevine that our local government entities are nefariously "keeping stuff secret."
For the most part, they're not. One of the last great freedoms people have is access to information, you just have to know where to look. Social media throttles content and the algorithms show you what it "thinks" you want to see. Government websites can be difficult to navigate and aren't always user friendly. Newspapers, however, are the tried and true method of delivering the information readers need to know.
By law, public notices must be printed in newspapers local to the entities involved. They are an integral and critical part of a proven legal process in which notifications of actions, or pending actions, by local governments or the courts are provided to citizens and taxpayers. They are required to publish in local newspapers, which serve as an independent third-party in this process. There are four elements which validate a public notice:
• The notice must be published by an independent 3rd party
• The publication must be archivable
• The publication must be accessible
• The publication must be verifiable.
It is for these reasons why you will not find public notices on the radio or social media. Instead, they are in your local newspaper every single week.
To be honest, it can be more than a little frustrating when we hear people say "we didn't know" when it comes to local meetings or requests for bids.
Our question to them is "Did you happen to look in the newspaper?"
Each week, a section of the newspaper marked "Legals" typically starts on page 5 or 6A, but you can always find out where they are by looking at the index on the bottom of the front page. This section carries announcements of upcoming meetings, the minutes of past meetings, budget outcomes, invitations to submit bid proposals and so much more. At first glance, these notices may seem a daunting wall of text, but reading through these can be like gleaning a nugget of gold; we can guarantee that there is something of importance in there to everyone.
The publishing of our Public Notices is one of the greatest things newspapers offer and our industry has a proven track record of doing them right. We do our part by publishing them, however it is up to you to read them. The best part is, that information is accessible for just the price of a paper. You don't need an internet connection, a computer or a cell phone. If you don't have a dollar, you can always go to your local library to find a copy. There is no reason to say "we didn't know" when it comes to the actions of your local government.
At least for the time being, a newspaper's posting of legal notices is one of the last great open doors for the you, the public, to have access to information. You just have to walk through it.