What do you need to know? Who do you trust?

Do you want to know what your city, county and school districts are up to?

As a responsible taxpayer and citizen of your community, of course you want to keep an eye on what these governments are undertaking.

Where do you go for that information?

Do you spend your day logging into the county’s website to find what your county commissioners did about county roads at their last meeting, but can’t find anything about it in their meeting minutes? Next you switch over to the town’s website so you can read about changes in garbage pick-up days and rates, only to find it hasn’t been posted yet. Then you click on over to the school district’s website to try to find out what the schools are doing to prevent the spread of COVID, but there’s no recent updates. You’ve just wasted more time than you had, because those government websites are hard to navigate anyway.

Or you can pick up a copy of this newspaper, or look at the e-edition of it on line, to quickly discover the answers to all these questions, and more, in one place.

Your local county, city and school district officials are your neighbors, members of your club or church. You know them to be trustworthy, so you can count on the information you find on the government websites to be timely and accurate, right?

But what occurs when something happens that puts one of these officials in a bad light? Maybe something embarrassing or untoward happens at one of their meetings. It might look unfavorable to constituents if the school superintendent or other administrator gets a big raise. Will the information provided on their websites be complete, truthful, accurate and timely? Or will there be a temptation or peer pressure to leave something out, put a spin on it or delay the posting?

Isn’t it a better option to have the independent, third party newspaper publish the complete minutes of government meetings and other important information? No temptation for the newspaper to fudge this publication, and the newspaper will even provide notarized affidavits verifying publication for all these government entities. Newspapers across Wyoming produce this public notice service at an average cost to governments of less than one half of one percent of their annual operating budgets.

Right now, your state Legislature is discussing a bill that would eliminate the requirement that city, county and school district meeting minutes and salary schedules be published in your local newspaper. Instead, in Senate File 17, these governments would control the posting of this information only on their own websites.

Is that really a good idea? Will that keep a rein on government spending? Will you really use precious time digging around all those websites to stay informed?

The estimated annual cost to taxpayers to update and maintain the government websites to make them effective and more user friendly would exceed what they are paying for the service newspapers now deliver.

If the goal is more government transparency and to save taxpayer dollars, perhaps there should be additional newspaper publication requirements. That way you can better keep an eye on what’s going on and be in a better position to make suggestions to elected officials to improve government.

The current system of required public notice publication in local newspapers furnishes the most simple, efficient and ethical way for your governments to keep you informed of their actions. Ask your legislators to vote no on Senate File 17.

Jim Wood, publisher of Wyoming Newspapers Inc., is a past chairman of the Wyoming Press Association. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

Public notices are a huge cash cow for newspapers at the taxpayers expense.

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