Editorial: Bill would reduce government transparency

Journal-Advocate (Sterling): The Colorado Senate recently approved SB 156, a bill that could impact how three county public notices are published, and sent it on to the House. The bill seeks to cut the monthly report of county bills to an annual report, and eventually pull that information from newspapers altogether, instead posting it to the county website. County salaries are now reported twice a year; the bill would likely change that to once a year. The semi-annual financial statement that counties are required to publish likewise would no longer appear in the paper.

Removing legal notice advertising from newspapers would be a disservice to the public and to the government. Notices placed in newspapers have been a reliable and easily accessible source of information about important governmental actions since Colorado was formed, a function that they continue to serve today. They also provide a permanent record and independent, third-party verification that notice has been properly provided to the public, with governmental entities able to provide proof of compliance if a dispute arises.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Journal-Advocate, as the newspaper of record in the county, benefits financially from these legal notices. In 2017, the paper received less than $4,000 from the publication of these notices. The county’s general fund budget for 2018 is over $12 million.

The internet is a useful tool for providing information across a broad audience, and it is one that our newspapers employ on behalf of all those who place legal notices, by including those advertisements on our website as well as submitting them as required to the publicnoticecolorado.com site. However, it is a passive tool, meaning users will find only what they seek out. A newspaper puts the information in front of the reader in one centralized location, where they are more likely to see it.

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