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Public notices should remain public

It seems that every year a North Carolina state senator introduces a bill that would drastically alter the way local public notices are publicized and that, every year, the legislation goes nowhere in the House and does little more than elicit opinion pieces like this one from newspapers.

This year, of course, is no exception. Sen. Trudy Wade, a Greensboro Republican, is the primary sponsor of a bill that would allow local governments to publish public notices on their own website, rather than requiring those notices to run in the newspaper of record for that community.

State Sen. David Curtis, a Denver Republican whose district includes Lincoln County, told the Times-News that his support for the bill is partly a response to pressure from municipalities to end the old public notice system and a belief that “local control is always best.” Philosophically, we’re in agreement on the latter point. The issue is that public notices often contain information that’s of great public interest, like zoning hearings about new developments or bids on government contracts. The guarantee that information like that will appear in the local newspaper means that anyone interested in those aspects of the future of their community knows exactly where to look, rather than being forced to wade through a clunky government website that’s packed with information, much of it of little interest to the common person.

It doesn’t appear that Wade’s bill is moving forward, thanks to little interest in passing it in the state House. Lincoln County’s top local elected officials — Board of Commissioners chairman Bill Beam and Lincolnton Mayor Ed Hatley — have both, commendably, said that they oppose changing the public notices system, as has state Rep. Jason Saine.

The best case scenario for the citizens of North Carolina would be for public notices to remain just that — public.

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