Senate Bill 5360 and House Bill 1478 will give cities and counties in Washington state the option to publish public notices, which are required, on their websites instead of posting them in a newspaper of record. This would mean that the public’s easy access to their local government’s basic functions would change.
While this decision may save cities money it would cost the public even more because the notices of zoning changes, public hearing, new ordinance notices and tax rate changes would go to each agency’s website instead of delivered directly to your mailbox.
This means that you will need to search the city, school district, fire district, sewer district and any other website that may hold public meetings or other legal notices, individually.
Currently, the Lake Stevens Journal publishes these notices for many of the above mentioned agencies and more. We do charge them a fee, however, we provide them with a notarized affidavit as proof that the notices were published.
Also, any notices published on behalf of builders or developers are charged back to the developer through their permitting fees. A cost the city does not incur.
According to a 2009 survey conducted by Pulse Research, 86 percent of respondents to the survey agreed that agencies should be required to publish legal notices in the newspaper. It is estimated that over half of our readers search the public notices on a regular basis.
The citizens of Washington consistently cry out for open government and keeping public notices on agency websites instead of in the hands of citizens through a newspaper which is delivered directly to them is not good policy. It is a step backward when it comes to open government.
It also threatens the future of local newspapers, costing them a small source of revenue. Taking these notices out of newspapers hurts not only the newspaper business but also the public by taking access to information that keeps government and elected officials accountable for what they are doing with taxpayer dollars.
We would appreciate any input you as voters might have on this subject. Please contact your local legislator by going to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder. Let them know that keeping legal notices in local newspapers is a step toward keeping an open government open. Taxpayers should have easy access to what is going on around them.