Does Public Notice Really Matter?

By  | 

CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb largerOver the past two years the City of Central has experienced problems providing lawful notice for public meetings, causing proposed actions to be deferred or re-introduced.  On each of these occasions, it appears as if the City was unaware of the violations until they were notified by a citizen or this newspaper. But, does public notice really matter?
    One of the greatest rights Americans possess is their right to be involved in how their government makes decisions. We as citizens are granted the right to address our lawmakers, to express our will concerning legislation, to hear what they say about legislation, and to observe them as they cast their votes.
    Open meetings laws protect this right by requiring that EVERY public meeting is fully accessible to EVERY citizen through public notice.  Proper public notice allows citizens to know in advance whether the proposed agenda contains issues that concern them so that they may attend, should they so choose.
    Examples of Central’s recent failures to provide sufficient public notice include:
•    Last week the City Council was poised to vote on whether to approve a controversial 175-house subdivision across from the High School without the required public notice.
•    This week three items on the Planning & Zoning Commission agenda were pulled for lack of proper public notice. 
•    In 2015 the appointment of two P&Z Commission members was invalidated due to lack of public notice.
•    In October the City failed to give public notice for two more P&Z Commission vacancies.
•    In June the City failed to lawfully notify the public for the vote on the 2016/2017 annual budget. 
    Does public notice matter, and should the public pay attention? Are the City’s specific violations deliberate, typical, or even all that newsworthy?  Has anybody really been prevented from participating in our Republic because some obscure requirement has been missed?  Maybe not, but how do you decide which laws are important and which ones you can let slide? When might it be something that isn’t “trivial” and costs tax dollars to correct?
    How hard can it be to have someone responsible to ensure that proper procedure is followed, rather than have it pointed out by the public or the media?  The City has the responsibility to know the laws and follow them; that’s their job.  This newspaper has the responsibility to know what is happening and inform the public; that’s our job.  Both of us doing our jobs would be Good News for a Great City.