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Keep government accountable

Dear Editor,

The state Assembly Committee on Local Government held a public hearing on Wednesday, March 8, on a bill that would give local governments the option to stop publishing a summary of their actions in your newspaper. Assembly Bill 70 would allow local municipalities to post meeting minutes on their websites instead.

This is bad public policy under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars that would create considerable disruption for government transparency. Supporters of Assembly Bill 70 suggest local government websites are sufficient to notify the public of their actions and that publishing meeting minutes in the newspaper limits access only to newspaper subscribers.

The fact is, however, that all legal notices published throughout the state since 2005 are already available for free to the public through WisconsinPublicNotices.org. This comprehensive, searchable website hosted by the Wisconsin newspaper industry brings together ink-on-paper notices into one online location. This service is provided at no cost to local municipalities.

The goal of WisconsinPublicNotices.org is to enhance government’s distribution of public information and assist citizens who want to know more about the actions of their local, county and state representatives. This permanent, third-party documentation — unalterable and independent of government itself — ensures the protection of “your right to know” for each and every citizen.

For years, this relationship between newspapers, local municipalities and WisconsinPublicNotices.org has successfully provided easy access to government information for all citizens, whether they seek it in print or online. Removing existing publication requirements would create holes in this invaluable statewide database while also neglecting the needs of those who lack adequate computer and internet access.

Please tell your legislators to oppose this unnecessary barrier to government transparency.

Beth Bennett

Executive director

Wisconsin Newspaper Association

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