To the point week of 03-13-08

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THERE’S A BIT OF LEGISLATION that came out of a conference committee at the Indiana Statehouse this week that should concern each and every taxpayer in the state – but what it deals with is something that very few people ever think about.

The conference committee deals with Senate Bill 26, which has been completely stripped down so that it only includes one thing.

It would eliminate the requirement for municipalities to publish public notices.

Now that may not mean much to you right now, and you may never look at the notices that are published in the classified section of this (and other) newspapers; but what the requirement does is make it possible that each and every taxpayer and citizen can monitor its local government.

The notice would eliminate the need for county’s to publish its claims. Claims are bills that the county has and needs to pay. If the county buys something, a claim must be approved before it can be paid for.

If the county hires a company to do work for it, a claim must be filed and approved before that company can be paid.

A municipality wants to raise the rate that residents pay for a certain service? It must publish that intent as a public notice so that citizens can’t object, if they choose.

In short, public notices do just that. They give the public – you – notice that your government is doing something with your money.

Budgets are published. Spending is published. Selling equipment owned by the municipality is advertised.

In a government of the people, for the people, and by the people; public notices give each of us the right to examine where our money is going, and then use our voices to direct our elected officials to carry out our wishes.

But Senate Bill 26 wants to take that from you.

It seeks specifically eliminate that provision so that government at all levels can operate as it wishes without having to be accountable to the people whom it is serving. Money will be spent with no checks and balances; contracts will be awarded without a discussion as to the necessity of the service.

The bigger picture also needs to be noticed, as well.

In a bill filled with all sorts of information, recommendations, and legislation, a handful of elected officials have gone in an gutted the bill, taking out important parts that would benefit each and every taxpayer in the state, and instead have created a bill that is now nothing more than their own, personal plaything.

Somewhere, someone made someone else mad. Someone’s feelings got hurt, and now’s the time to exact revenge. Now’s the time for person #2 to get their proverbial pound of flesh.

Never mind if it hurts the citizens of the state – someone’s got to get his revenge.

If this passes, a governmental structure based on open government will be reduced to darkness.

This is not a local issue, and it should be noted that the county entities here: county and town governments, schools, and others; all go out of their way to keep citizens informed of what is going on.

Meetings are announced publicly; notices are published in accordance with the law; and every effort is made to include the citizens in decisions – not exclude them.

Notices on zoning changes and other public decisions have alerted citizens that they need to attend meetings and voice their support or opposition for those changes.

The decision doesn’t always go the way some would like – but what if you had no voice at all?

Reading public notices each week is something that each and every taxpayer should get in the habit of doing, because it tells you what your government is doing.

To eliminate that public information at the state level is senseless and irresponsible, and citizens should not allow it to happen.