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  • Last modified 238 days ago (Sept. 27, 2023)

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Don’t say no to knowing

One of the secrets to communities being stronger together is for all public business to be transacted in the open, without secrecy, in the most — well, public — way possible.

The public’s right to know — and, with it, the right to have a voice in decisions — is essential to the American way.

Yet Hillsboro, a model of openness in recent years, is considering advice from out-of-town lawyers to curtail that right.

Hiding public notices on city websites that people rarely consult and won’t know to look at to find unexpected new notices is a penny-wise, pound-foolish solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Putting public notices in newspapers that people eagerly read for other purposes means government cares enough about the public to let readers stay informed by stumbling across official notices.

The fact that newspaper notices automatically are republished — free to all readers — on multiple websites with far greater reach than the city’s guarantees broad exposure.

More important, putting a notice down in print — in a form some hacker or unscrupulous official can’t later tweak to make it say something other than what was intended — is a vitally important safeguard.

The same sort of out-of-town lawyers who tried to get Marion to take away taxpayers’ right to vote on city borrowing are behind the move to get Hillsboro to stop publishing notices in the newspaper.

They say they’re doing it to try to save the city money, but the cost is trivial and their real reason is so they can make more money selling the city on complex borrowing schemes that voters, if aware of them, might disapprove of.

If the out-of-town law firms are so concerned with the few pennies they might save cities, perhaps they would consider reducing their sky-high rates for rendering advice. And perhaps they could consider moving to town so the city could patronize Marion County businesses like ours rather than shovel taxpayers’ money to businesses out of the county that see us only as a place to gouge out a profit.

Encourage city council members not only to reject naming Hillsboro’s website as a newspaper but also to overturn an ill-advised charter ordinance that allows them to do so.

As is, if the council doesn’t like some truth we report someday, it could almost immediately retaliate by stopping publication of legal notices.

Until Aug. 11, we never would have thought a city in our county would so blatantly attempt to circumvent the First Amendment, but Marion has taught us a lesson in that regard. Hillsboro shouldn’t be the next to attack a newspaper that tries only to be a public watchdog.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 27, 2023

 

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