Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 7, 2016

Be sure to read the fine  print

By Bill Gray

By BILL GRAY

Mt. Pleasant News

I broke my glasses a couple of weeks ago. Now, I can get by without them (there was this time when I lost them for, oh, about 14 months back in 2007-2008), but nowadays it’s hard to read the fine print without them

And as you know, the world is full of fine print.

The Mt. Pleasant News has its share. You may notice plenty of it in this edition. Most, if not all of it, is contained in what are labeled, “Public Notices.”

We work with local and regional governments, as well as local attorneys along with the occasional state and federal office, to bring about these notices in print. The reasons why they are printed are as varied as our governmental and legal system.

But they are very important. Perhaps with a little bit of irony thrown in here, I believe their importance lies with the fact that are legal and governmental systems can be complex and impact us in seemingly infinite ways. Public notices are a small way of informing you and I about matters that could have a big effect on our futures.

This issue of the Mt. Pleasant News has some good examples of how and why Public Notices are important. On this page is a proposed government budget amendment. Since it’s a governmental budget, that means something involving tax money. Now, the proposed change could be big, or it could be small. In the vast majority of cases, a proposed budget amendment will include information on who is affected, what it involves, when a decision will be made, where it will happen, why it is proposed and how it can be addressed.

Ideally, a public notice can strip an issue down to the facts and remove any prejudice or persuasion that one way or another is correct. That’s how the upcoming ballot questions about how Henry County Supervisors should be elected will appear in a public notice. If you think carefully, you’ll also recognize that the way the ballots for elections are set up follow the principles of good legal notices, too – and those ballot forms also appear in the newspaper prior to voting.

There are those in government, mostly at the state and federal level, who want to cut back or eliminate printed public notices. Some cite cost savings, but in many cases, it has more to do with an attitude that I sum up as, “They don’t need to know that.”

Of course we do. Every person digests his or her information a little bit differently; if anything, more public disclosure is better than less.

The cost? That’s where the fine print comes in. We work with local governments to try to print the Public Notices in small but readable type, and fees are not set by the local newspaper, but by the State of Iowa each July.

Even so, those of us who don’t have 20-20 vision are glad to have our glasses in good repair once again.