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View from around the state: Don’t bury public notices in bureaucracy

The Green Bay City Council recently discussed spending $80,000 to repair or replace a 9/11 monument that’s in “horrible condition.”

The Holmen Village Board in La Crosse County approved $34,085 for two pickups, $4,500 for a digital camera, and $2,600 for a radar gun.

The Beaver Dam School Board committed $75,000 for Chromebooks for staff.

The DeForest Village Board approved an agreement with Dane County to reconstruct Highway CV.

All of that information — and so much more — appeared Thursday and Friday in meeting minutes published by local governments in local newspapers.

You might not care about some or any of those details if you don’t live in those communities. But if you did, those decisions could significantly affect you and your family.

That’s why school districts, counties and municipalities are required by state law to publish — at a discount — the minutes of their meetings in their local newspapers. The Wisconsin Newspaper Association also publishes the notices and a slew of other community announcements on its searchable and free website: wisconsinpublicnotices.org.

The notices are a public service to the hundreds of thousands of citizens who read local newspapers in print and online across Wisconsin, as well as anyone who is curious and has access to the internet.

The result of wide dissemination of this public information — where it is easy to find — is a more involved and knowledgeable citizenry that knows what’s going on with public money and policy.

Unfortunately, Gov. Scott Walker and some misguided state lawmakers want to hide much of this information where it’s hard for voters to find. They are pushing changes in the state budget and separate legislation that would bury meeting minutes and other public notices about local ordinances and budgets on obscure, often confusing and bureaucratic government websites.

Instead of just picking up your local newspaper and seeing all of the actions your local leaders are taking — including those that don’t lead to news coverage and big headlines — citizens will have to search the internet hoping to find more detail about government budgets and decisions.

The politicians claim this will save a little money because local governments won’t have to pay for as many notices in newspapers. What they don’t say is public access to government will be diminished. And that’s just what the politicians want, because fewer notices will mean less scrutiny and accountability for their actions. Over time, that will only lead to greater spending and waste, not less.

The full Legislature should reject Assembly Bill 70 and Senate Bill 42, which will reduce government transparency. Lawmakers also should strip from the governor’s budget any language limiting publication of government meetings and actions.

— Wisconsin State Journal

Editor’s Note: The Daily Reporter is the official public notice paper of record for Milwaukee County.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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