It’s too bad clothing and shoes come in lots of sizes to fit all shapes and measurements.
If they didn’t, we’re certain that state government would function much more effectively. The “one-size-fits-all” approach to governing has once again exposed the self-interests of a single lawmaker, while seriously eroding the accountability of elected officials and the public’s right to stay informed about its local government.
This week members of a House committee will debate a bill introduced by Sen. John Kavanaugh aimed at allowing all towns and cities in Arizona to post public meeting notices on the municipality’s website. The initiative has already pass through the Senate on a 16-13 vote, with our elected state Sen. David Gowan supporting the legislation.
Sen. Kavanaugh’s motivation for this bill is personal. One of the communities he represents doesn’t want to pay the publication costs to advertise when the council and other governing bodies has scheduled public meetings. They would prefer to comply with the state’s Public Notice Law simply by burying those notices somewhere on their website.
Is it any wonder citizens are more apathetic about their government?
Here’s another step to make it more difficult for some citizens to find out when public officials are holding public meetings. Allowing notices to be posted only online will disenfranchise a wide swath of the state’s rural citizens. These are citizens who are served by newspapers and not only don’t have easy or inexpensive access to the internet, but in many instances have no access at all.
When government limits access to public notices, it breeds apathy and allows public officials to skirt accountability to the public it is elected to represent.
There have been multiple efforts to take public notices out of newspapers and allow them to be placed on government websites. But a recent survey by Microsoft has shown that about 32%, or 2.4 million Arizona residents, have no internet connection at home or elsewhere. Even if they did, it is unlikely they would search those sites on the off chance they will find a notice that affects them.
We acknowledge that the heart of Sen. Kavanaugh’s argument for his bill — SB1006 — is the cost incurred by his municipality, and all other public bodies responsible for properly notifying the public of meetings. Yet the value of keeping citizens informed and assuring a level of accountability by local government is well worth the investment.
We urge state legislators — including our own locally elected officeholders — to vote down this bill. Doing so will ensure a more engaged and well informed constituency.