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Public Notice Illinois


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IPA HEADLINES

Attempt to remove School Statement of Affairs notice from newspapers defeated

By Sam Fisher, IPA president & chief executive officer

When it comes to informing local people about local issues, nobody does it better than newspapers. Admittedly, I’m biased, having spent my career in the industry and now serving as the head of the Illinois Press Association.  Throughout my career, I’ve seen the unique bond that exists between a newspaper and the community it serves at so many levels.
 
Every legislative session there is an attempt by legislators to take public notices out of newspapers and instead to post them on the internet. At first blush, it sounds like a great concept as everybody goes to the web and it would supposedly save local units of government the minimal cost newspapers charge for notices – but it’s not.
 
Granted, there is a financial incentive for newspapers to continue to publish public notices, but the bigger picture is that public notices are intended to let citizens know about the goings on in government. After all, notices are required by statute to make government transparent.
 
Some legislators believe that since everybody has internet access, it’s the right thing to do. Would these notices appear on the state transparency site – ITAP – or would they be posted on each unit of governments’ site?  Keep in mind that there are over 7,000 units of local government in the state and the majority does not even have a website. So, if there is no website where does the information go? Nowhere.
 
Additionally, the state’s transparency portal – ITAP – is woeful and incomplete. Information mandated by the legislature to be posted on ITAP over seven years ago still doesn’t appear.
 
For those legislators that believe the internet is the answer, then they need to go to Public Notice Illinois (PNI) – www.publicnoticeillinois.com. That’s the site where the legislature requires every newspaper to post public notices. It’s the law and this site, which is operated by Illinois newspapers, gives the public access to every notice that’s been published throughout the state. These notices are posted to PNI without any additional costs to the units of government.
 
An attempt was made this session to take the “School Statement of Affairs” notice out of newspapers. This annual notice lists all of a school district’s expenditures. Take a look and compare the cost of publishing the notice to other expenditures and you’ll see that it’s small price to pay for transparency. This bill failed on the House floor because the majority of representatives know that hiding public notices is not in the best interest of the people they represent.

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