Opinion | Voice of The Southern Voice of The Southern: Keep public notices in newspapers This editorial is published together with Lee Enterprises’ Illinois newspapers. There are some things you simply expect to be “in the paper.” Comics, for example, are always “in the paper.” For some newspapers, they’ve been around since they were the
Opinion | Voice of The Southern
Voice of The Southern: Keep public notices in newspapers
This editorial is published together with Lee Enterprises’ Illinois newspapers.
There are some things you simply expect to be “in the paper.”
Comics, for example, are always “in the paper.” For some newspapers, they’ve been around since they were the “funnies.”
Classified ads are always “in the paper.” Even though competition and social media have combined to reduce their number, we still will always have people who either look in the newspaper or tell someone to look in the newspaper.
Then there are “legals.” Legal public notices are court-mandated public advertising published in newspapers. If a government body is meeting to spend money or alter tax collection or make other major changes, notice must be published.
The concept itself has existed since early civilizations posted notices in public squares. That method was refined with the publication of the first English language newspaper in 1665. State governments published public notices in newspapers throughout colonial times. In 1789, the Acts of the First Session of the Congress required all bills, orders, resolutions and congressional votes be published in at least three publicly available newspapers.
Typical public notice laws apply to public actions, such as budgets, hearings, government contracts open for bidding, unclaimed property and court actions.
But it’s a law regularly under fire. Annually, dozens of proposals move through legislatures attempting to relax or eliminate the law.
This year is no different in Illinois. House Bill 811 has been filed, but not yet been assigned to a committee. As other bills that have come and gone before it, HB 811 is a bad idea. Lawmakers should reject it, as they have in the past.
Newspapers have played a vital role in providing transparency about government through the publication of public notices. Presently, with the digital reach of newspapers through their websites and the statewide public notice site run by Illinois newspapers, notifying the public has never been more efficient, effective and impactful. Posting notices to newspaper websites and the statewide site are at no additional cost to government and is intended to provide even greater public access to these notices.
Per state law passed unanimously in 2011, the website www.publicnoticeillinois.com makes available to the public every notice that appears in an Illinois newspaper.
Units of government are required by statute to post meeting dates, agendas and minutes. Yet, many don’t. There are nearly 7,000 units of government in Illinois. There are more than 1,400 townships in Illinois. The vast majority do not have websites.
The cost of public notices is one of the smallest expenses of government entities. So, it’s not surprising that eliminating public notices from newspapers won’t reduce taxes.
Newspapers across Illinois provide access to public notices and verify compliance by government units. They also serve as a permanent record of public notices.
The majority of the more than 400 newspapers in Illinois are small businesses. Like every other small business, newspapers have been hit hard by the pandemic. Removing public notices will make it even harder for newspapers to do what they do best — serve and inform their communities.