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Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls, MN
  • River Ramblings.....

  • I made a visit to the state capitol this past week and was lucky to be able to get off the freeway. Every exit and entrance on I-494 east of the airport to I-35E and north into St. Paul, was guarded and blocked off as security measures in advance of the arrival of President Obama at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul. As I...
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  •     I made a visit to the state capitol this past week and was lucky to be able to get off the freeway. Every exit and entrance on I-494 east of the airport to I-35E and north into St. Paul, was guarded and blocked off as security measures in advance of the arrival of President Obama at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
        As I approached the Kellogg Boulevard exit near downtown St. Paul, I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to get off the freeway until I got up to Roseville or New Brighton. Lucky, the Kellogg exit was the last one blocked and  the next exit, which I needed to use to get to the capitol, was unguarded and open.
        Several local and area county commissioners were also in St. Paul that day for the joint county/city/school board legislative conference and at least two of them, John Berends and Dave Nordaune, were able to film video on their cell phones of the President’s motorcade going by on Kellogg Boulevard. I was at the capitol at the time and missed the parade of secret service vehicles delivering the President to Union Depot.
        While at the capitol, besides connecting with our area legislators, I spent some time at a  Senate committee hearing that seemed pertinent to those of us who serve the public as elected officials and also to those of us in the newspaper business.
      I got recruited to testify at the hearing in regard to a proposal to eliminate the requirement for cities, counties and school districts to publish certain public notices. The list of those  notices that wouldn’t need to be published in a newspaper includes the annual delinquent property tax list, financial statements and all notices calling for bids.
        Now, we all know that many people don’t regularly read those notices but many folks do and if you do want to read them, they are there in the local newspaper and are easy to find.
        Cities, counties and schools argue that it would save money and serve the public just as well by posting them on their own  website.
        It seems to me that making information more challenging to find doesn’t serve any anybody and only creates suspicion, something that no elected official on any public board wants.        When it comes to the public’s business, there should really be nothing to hide. There are a few very specific times when having a closed meeting is inescapable but I would much rather have all meetings be open to all people all of the time or at least as much as is legally possible.
    Page 2 of 2 -     Closing a meeting often creates suspicion. Not publishing  public notices does the same thing and sends a message to the public that it isn’t important for them to be informed or to know what their city, county or school is doing.
        Making information more difficult to find or to access runs counter to being open and being held responsible. That’s something that all public officials need to embrace, not run away from.         
        Recently, the Yellow Medicine County board  refused to endorse the idea of not requiring the publication of Public Notices. Their action even got some mention in the Star Tribune.
        They got it right and all cities, counties and schools and their organizations should follow Yellow Medicine County’s lead.  

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