By Austin American Statesman
When Internet search engines revved up to full throttle this decade, they put a wide array of information at your fingertips anytime you wanted to call it up. Like wonderments throughout the ages, however, wise consumers knew to exercise caution in digesting the information.
The proliferation of websites – especially government websites – can be valuable sources of information, but they can be used to give the appearance of transparency without actually delivering it. Not all government websites are easy to navigate.
During the past several years, local governments have been asking the Legislature to release them from the obligation of printing certain public notices in newspapers. The promise of economy is alluring, but the savings it offers come at price.
The price is that now the governing bodies in the local political subdivisions – including cities, counties and school districts – control where on the website notices of tax increases or other pending decisions they are now required to publish in newspapers.
What we said in 2011 still applies:
“Granted, technology has changed over the years, but human nature hasn’t.”
Please note that writing this is awkward. There is an element of self-interest in that newspapers don’t publish these notices for free …
Supporters of the bill like to pound on the monetary interest that newspapers have in the legislation, but that doesn’t calm legitimate concerns about how local governments how or where on their websites local governments will present the information they are now required to publish in Texas newspapers. The NAACP, AARP and contractor organizations have expressed opposition to the bill.
One legislator says he’s trying to save taxpayers money and we have no reason to doubt his sincerity, but his bill represents a retreat from the concepts of government transparency and accountability.
His bill is now pending in the Technology Committee. That’s where it ought to stay.