To the Point for 2/17/05


THIS COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED on certain principles and freedoms, and for better or worse it has been upon those freedoms that this country has become the greatest society in history.

As free citizens of this democracy, we have been given individual rights to not only participate in our government, but also to monitor that same government and the decisions that are made.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals certain rights, including the right of free speech and freedom of the press, among others:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s a single sentence that forms the cornerstone of what this country is really all about. For better or worse, those holding different views than our own have the right to make that view known, as long as it is done in a peaceful manner.

Coming from England, where when you were born you automatically became a member of the Church of England; our forefathers ingrained in the Constitution the right of citizens to worship as they pleased — even the right not to worship.

Does this mean that religion and denominations have no place in our society? Not at all. It simply means that our government isn’t going to tell us how and when and what to worship.

Along with those individual rights is a right that is very dear to my heart, personally and professionally.

It is the right for a free press to operate in our society. Think the press has too much power? Go to a country where newspapers and other forms of media are controlled by the government, and you will find a society that hungers for what we take for granted.

It is through the freedoms that our founding fathers gave to the press that you as a citizen can stay informed about what your

government is doing. You can also participate in a free press by writing a letter to the editor — and in doing so you have the freedom to disagree with your government without fear that you’ll be hauled off to some prison in the middle of the night.

One area that is also important to citizens is a law requiring the public notice of information by units of government so that the citizens can inspect and participate in those decisions.

Each and every week in this newspaper and in others across the country, governmental units run public notices (you’ll find them on pages 14 and 15 of today’s edition) as a way of informing its citizenry.

When your government wants to spend money, it has to inform you of it. Who got paid and how much they got paid is listed so that no one can suspect that anything was done “under the table.”

When it wants to raise your taxes, it is required to tell you so that you can ask why. If a new building is going to be built, you get to participate in public hearings so that you can stay informed about the extent of the program.

Individually, if someone wants to take your home in some dispute, they have to give you ample time to respond — and they do that by informing you through a public notice. Delinquent taxes are reported so that people can be informed and pay them; and local businesses can see what types of contracts are coming up so that they can bid and possibly get the work.

Public notices are more than “legals”, they are a way that you as a citizen stays informed about what your government is doing — not just at the local level, but at all levels. If it is going to effect you as a citizen — and the amount of taxes that you pay — you have the right to be informed through the use of public notice advertising.

The Indiana State Legislature is currently considering some bills that, if passed, would remove the requirement for public notices to be printed in newspapers. Some legislation calls for those notices to be listed on the Internet instead, but there is a fear that by doing so very few citizens will ever find them.

Stay informed about what government is doing at all levels. Take the time to read the public notice advertisements in the classified section of this and other newspapers.

It’s your right as a citizen to be informed about decisions made on your behalf by your government — and the best way to do that is for the continuation of public notices.