2017-10-26 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Read public notices


Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Let’s face it — we have a lot of information being thrown our way.

A lot.

Obviously, it’s impossible to keep up with all of it and still keep a job and/or spouse.

But some recent news stories covered by The County Press — sister paper of the Lapeer Area View — serve as a reminder of one thing we should make a priority to take note of: public notices in the newspaper.

I’m talking specifically about the public notices that appear in the printed edition of the newspaper.

As the paper states, “Municipalities and school districts are legally required to publish notices in an established newspaper of record regarding special meetings and assessments, bid requests, zoning ordinance hearings, elections and other notices important to taxpayers, property owners and voters. In addition to informing citizens of their local government and school board actions, printed public notices in newspapers provide a permanent, verifiable and tangible third-party record.”

Translation?

Your elected officials are required to tell you about the things they’re doing that affect you and put it in the paper as a part of the permanent record.

In theory, it sounds like a good system.

However, it is far from perfect.

Notices are often lacking in detail to put it mildly, as if the public notice were an afterthought — that officials are doing you a favor, or meeting minimum requirements, as opposed to following law. (I’m not saying that every public notice published falls into this generalization, but many do.) A meeting may have included discussion importance ordinance changes with wide-ranging impact and implications, for example. Potential changes could include opening the door to new types of operations and businesses in a community. However, official public notice meeting minutes might include something as simple as “discussed possible amendments to zoning ordinances.”

At the same time, it seems an increasing number of officials are saying things to the effect of “Well, we put public notice on XYZ in the paper some time ago.” One almost gets the sense there is some sort of resentment, or animosity — something along those lines — that more people don’t show up for their meetings.

And what’s even scarier?

Some legislators want to take the public notices away from print. State Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, introduced HB 4002 earlier this year that calls for public notices to be moved from newspapers to the Internet. (The bill introduced in January remains in committee).

As of this writing, unbelievably in the year 2017, some Lapeer County communities don’t even have websites. Those that do, don’t always follow the law — passed five years ago — that actually require public notices to be published on official websites.

The bottom line?

Public notices printed in the newspaper have a big role in the community and should not be ignored — even though it may seems like many people would be perfectly happy if they were.

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