The writing is on the wall: your rights are at stake | Peabody Gazette-Bulletin

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The writing is on the wall: your rights are at stake

Bean-counting bureaucrats looking to divert taxpayer dollars from private business have conspired with expensive and loophole lawyers to challenge your right to know what is going on in government once again .

Their latest project, started in McPherson County and now trying to expand into Marion County, involves municipalities declaring their websites to be newspapers.

Ignore for a moment that over a third of county residents cannot view websites even if they want to because they do not use the Internet.

There are huge security risks in not having official announcements recorded in a permanent form by an independent group, be it newspapers or someone else.

If this ploy takes hold, foreign hackers who want to spoil American democracy won’t have to worry about spreading false rumors on social media. They’ll just hack into government websites – the same way three governments in this county were hacked last year – and start changing the laws posted there.

It’s not just hackers we need to worry about. More than once, municipal workers have told us that their bureaucratic bosses tried to get them to change things that the duly elected officials had adopted without sending them back to the officials.

Letting the government publish its own supposedly permanent archives puts the fox in charge of the chicken coop and spreads a huge welcome mat inviting foreign foxes to join in the fun.

It also deprives citizens of one of the most fundamental rights they possess: the right to be able to find out, without having to travel, what the hell their government is doing without asking.

When this nation was founded, public notices were to be posted on the doors of courthouses or in city squares, where citizens passing regularly for other reasons might notice what is displayed. This is the idea that we have operated smoothly for a century and a half, putting in newspapers such reviews that people pay to read for other reasons. People can see what the government is doing without having to search an obscure book or follow an obscure link online.

The dumbest part of the new system to put government in competition with private enterprise is that it requires municipal websites to be seen as honest newspapers.

Last week’s review of something called Charter Ordinance 22 made Hillsboro the beachhead in Marion County for an ongoing invasion by government dark forces.

If his website was truly a newspaper, subscribers would be clamoring for their subscriptions to be canceled. The site – at least this week – is very outdated. The minutes of city council meetings inexplicably end in May. The agendas for city council meetings have not been updated for nearly a month. When cities were first allowed to post parts of reviews on websites, we kept track for two years: in 42% of cases they somehow forgot or the link they provided wouldn’t actually lead to what it was supposed to show.

Is this really where we want our most important tax documents and laws to be presented and kept? Or is it just a way of punishing newspapers that dare to criticize the government or save a few pennies that will no doubt be swept away by bureaucrats needing more pay and more equipment to do what newspapers have done economically for a century and a half?

Hillsboro let the beachhead be established in part because it invited no one other than bureaucrats to influence the project. We have now sent council members a much longer list of reasons that you would never have the patience to read here in the hope that the truth will set them free and they will reverse their action. Otherwise, citizens will be able to cancel them by signing a petition and forcing an election. Or, just to make the lawyers even richer, there is always the likelihood of a legal challenge.

Such a challenge could have a good chance of succeeding. The loophole originally found in McPherson County has to do with something called self-reliance, which allows cities to overturn state laws if the state does not require something. specific or whether the state treats cities differently.

In this case, however, state law is absolutely clear about the need for all cities of all sizes to publish notices in newspapers, and it very clearly sets out – without exception – specific criteria as to what is considered an eligible journal to publish reviews. It even makes a clear distinction between websites and newspapers in the rare cases where it allows web publication, which must first be summarized in a newspaper.

Yes, Hillsboro’s stock, unless it’s reversed, will cost us money. But as the Hillsboro city administrator admitted when introducing the program, this is a tiny amount compared to what Hillsboro spends on other things, many of which are far less essential than keeping up. the informed public.

This is really the principle of the case. The public has the right to know. Private enterprise has the right to exist without the government competing with it. Cities shouldn’t be able to overturn the laws they desire, lest we suddenly find ourselves living in cities that liberalize drugs, challenge the First and Second Amendments, and interfere with our way of life.

Encourage Hillsboro to get smart and not to use small savings as an excuse to weaken democracy and private enterprise or to avenge critics. There isn’t a government around that doesn’t spend more on obsolete photocopiers, usually to out-of-town suppliers, than it does to publish legal opinions, the revenues of which help support the local news coverage.

If such trends continue, the government will be the death not only of us, but also of our dearest democratic principles.

– ERIC MEYER


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