Keep Public Notices in Public View

State Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland) is once again beating her drum in the House Committee on Local Government to remove public notices from Michigan’s newspapers.

Public notices are legally required notices from our villages, cities, townships and counties that advise the public on such things as requests for bids, zoning board meetings and tax tribunals. House Bill No. 4183, introduced by Price and a host of others, would phase out publication of public notices in newspapers and instead place them on the municipalities’ own websites.

A similar bill sponsored by Price was voted out of committee during last year’s lame duck session and was never brought before the full house for vote. But Price and her recruits are back again, implying that newspapers will no longer be relevant in Michigan’s communities in 10 years and insisting that placing the public notices online on government owned websites will broaden transparency and access.

Along with other members of the Michigan Press Association, View Newspaper Group publisher Wes Smith appeared in front of the Committee on Local Government last week to testify that our readers and all of Michigan’s citizens would be ill-served by the proposed changes to public notice rules.

The bill under consideration would become an unfunded mandate for which Michigan’s 1,800-plus villages, cities, townships and counties would have to cut other programs in order to pay for equipment, internet access and training of their personnel to facilitate the proper posting, archiving and safeguarding of public notices on their websites.

We’re not buying the idea that printed newspapers will be obsolete in 10 years. Pundits have pronounced newspapers dead since the first days of radio — we’re still here serving our communities and watchdogging government. But the viability of print is a minor point and a needless, lengthy argument regarding the public notice issue. If access to public notices through the internet is the issue, that is easily resolved by this newspaper and most papers throughout Michigan that already have functioning websites upon which the public notices can be placed alongside their print versions.

If you want to keep public notices in plain view in your local newspaper, contact Rep. Lee Chatfield (R–Levering) the chair of the House Committee on Local Government and let him know how you feel. Rep. Chatfield can be reached by phone at 517-373-2629 and his e-mail address is LeeChatfield@house.

You can also send us a letter. We’ll be sure to forward your comments to our state legislators. We need to work together to protect your right to know and your right to be to heard.

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