Our View: What's the value of an informed public

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 11:45 AM

It is quite plain now just how much our county commissioners value government transparency and keeping the public informed about government action.

The figure is $2,000.

That is how much our county would spend on publishing notices in a local newspaper to keep its taxpayers informed about things like new laws, delinquent tax lists notices of when and where the commissioners will meet.

They voted enthusiastically to sign on to Senate Bill 287, a local bill that would allow the county and its municipalities to stop publishing legal notices in newspapers and allow them to publish the notices on websites instead.

To his credit, Commissioner Jonathan Thomas did raise the question of how many residents were not connected to the Internet, but he voted for the measure anyway.

Consider:

• the poll by the Public Notice Resource Center that found 56 percent of U.S. adults say they have never visited a government website.

• The same survey found only 7 percent of the U.S. adult population reports viewing a government website on a regular basis.

And the Elon poll that found:

• 80 percent of respondents said transparently is the key to fighting government corruption.

• 93 percent said public hearings are essential to good government.

• 75 percent of North Carolinians believe that governments naturally like to keep secrets.

It is no wonder that they feel this way. At a hearing Tuesday in Raleigh on this very topic, our State Senator — Republican Tommy Tucker —  speaking on the floor of the Senate told a newspaper publisher “I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

Later after complaining about “a blistering editorial” about this bill, Tucker cut off a fellow senator who wanted a roll call vote on the bill. Tucker then abruptly gaveled the session to a close and walked out.

That both explains why people don’t trust goverment and why government should not be trusted to post public notices only online.

We would give up the $2,000 if we thought it would serve the public better, and we can only wonder why those elected to represent the public aren’t willing to spend that much to ensure people with and without computers are adequately informed.