Threat to Public Notice

Received this today:

Good morning,

I am writing to ask a favor of you. Arizona Newspapers (ANA) are currently fighting a bill that is now in the House Government committee down at the Arizona legislature. Tomorrow this committee will hear HB2244 at 2 p.m.. This bill will effectively put all legal notices on many different government websites and take the full notices out of newsprint. This would mean you would soon have to search for your notices on hundreds of government websites instead of just the one, PublicNoticeAds.com.

I am writing to ask you to send a personal e-mail to the members of the Government committee and tell them you oppose HB2244. It is important that you relay that these notices are an important part of how you do business, it is your right to know what government is doing and that you want public notice to stay in newspapers.

We have support from the League of Cities, County Supervisors Association, AARP and hopefully Goldwater Institute to pass the Study Committee bill HB 2302. We ask for our supporters to OPPOSE HB2244 and Support HB2302.

Here is the Govt. Committee contact information:

House Government Committee

Judy Burges (R-D4) burges@azleg.gov 602-926-5861  Committee Chairman

Steve Montenegro (R-D12) smontenegro@azleg.gov 602-926-5955  Committee Vice Chairman

Frank Antenori (R-D30) fantenori@azleg.gov 602-926-5683

Adam Driggs (R-D11) adriggs@azleg.gov 602-926-3016

David Gowen ( R-D30) dgowan@azleg.gov 602-926-3312

Warde Nichols (R-D21) wnichols@azleg.gov 602-926-5168

Chad Campbell (D-D14) chcampbell@azleg.gov 602-926-3026

Tom Chabin (D-D2) tchabin@azleg.gov 602-926-5160

Anna Tovar ( D-D13) atovar@azleg.gov 602-926-3392

We at ANA are opposed to the bill for many reasons which I will enumerate here:

1.    Publication vs. Internet Notice. For more than 100 years, Arizona newspapers have been publishing public notices. Public notice laws were created to notify the public of government actions that may affect their interests or rights. Communities have come to rely on local newspapers for this information and, more importantly, the information is available to individuals who may not be searching for it so they also have adequate notice of government actions. Despite declining circulation in some markets, 86% of adults read America’s Community Newspapers each week – and local newspapers continue to be the primary source of local news by a margin of more than 5–1 over the Internet.

2.    Newspapers are on the Internet and post notices via their Web sites. Arizona newspapers upload their notices to the Arizona Newspaper Association’s Web site on a weekly basis and post them onto their own Web sites. The Arizona Newspaper Association’s Web site, free to the public, is a comprehensive, organized and searchable compendium of public notices. The site allows users to enter a list of words and be notified by e-mail when a corporate notice or any other public notice is posted that uses those words. For a demonstration, go to www.ananews.com and open “public notices.”

3.    Our audience. Because we often hear that no one reads the notices in response to this legislation, ANA sponsored research which tells us that isn’t true. Here are three statistics about Arizona’s public notice database on PublicNoticeAds.com:

  • 142,766 – The number of click throughs in January 2010. (1,552,972 for all 2009)  Those just aren’t pages someone stumbled on. The user either had to enter search information and click search, or after that, click on a link to a public notice in a newspaper.
  • 1,732,685 – The number of links to Public Notices in Arizona that have been emailed to those who registered their search preferences with us. The time frame varies because some registrants ask for 30 days and others one year).

4.   No cost to state or public. These sites are free to the public because they are supported by paid public notice advertising in Arizona’s newspapers. A sixteen other state associations are already emulating the Arizona Newspaper Association model, which is the first of its kind in the nation. This site is the very example of what many officials support – using private enterprise instead of public dollars to provide a demonstrably valuable public service.

5.    Rural Arizona. Not everyone has access to the Internet. In rural Arizona, personal access is particularly difficult. And even the ANA Web site cannot offer what a published listing offers – a spreadsheet, in effect, of the latest corporate filings indexed, identified and permanent, a copy delivered to you.

For instance, the publisher of Nogales International spoke to an older Nogales couple of good financial standing who was Internet savvy and mentioned they would never choose the internet over the physical newspaper. It is important to keep in mind while some may have access to the Internet it is not their preferred method of finding public notices. Plus, some rural communities do not have Internet access.

6.    Ease of use. The usefulness of the newspaper-published presentation is underlined by the fact that all of the Arizona newspapers that carry public notices have paid subscribers who choose to have the newspapers deliver the notices. Obviously they find them useful. Corporate and other public notices are the purest kind of news, telling the reader exactly who proposes to do what kind of business in the community, with no slant or editorial content. And the price is nominal – pocket change at any newsstand.

7.    Historically open, third-party verification. Arizona is a state that prides itself on openness. Closing the door on disseminating this information would jeopardize the open and transparent government processes upon which Arizonans rely. During a time in which transparency is being demanded by the public, given the current economic situations throughout the state and country, it is important to trust this information with a third-party provider. A third-party provider is not biased, provides verification of the publication and has safeguards in place to provide the information at a later date if requested. Staffs provide affidavits verifying the information was printed correctly and keep bound editions of the newspapers for easy reference. We don’t want to be in a position where governments are released from the obligation to notify the public of what they are doing before a decision is made. They should be required to post it on a medium that is independent of government. Publication by newspaper is also about the preservation of an evidentiary record. A printed page can’t be manipulated.

8.    Notifying the community. Publishing a public notice in a community newspaper enables citizens to be aware of and understand what is happening in their neighborhood, city or town. That is the reason notices must be published in the county of principal place of business. It prevents the notices being hidden in a distant paper or a massive database. Government files are just that – files. Putting a corporate document in an electronic database is not public notice. Publishing in a newspaper, bringing the matter directly to the attention of the community, is public notice.

9.    Keeping costs down. Newspapers take the responsibility for public notices very seriously. We know these notices are vital, and they are treated with care and respect. To keep costs down for the client and for ourselves, the notices are set tight and held to strict space requirements. We index the notices, separate them by type, and organize them to make sure first publications are clearly identified, to help our readers use them. If the notices were uploaded on a government Web site, taxpayers would incur the additional expense. The notices cannot be uploaded without cities and towns spending money to expand their payrolls to hire workers to post the notices, prepare verification standards and to retool their Web sites to make them easier for the public to find. If the municipal websites are to be the new carriers of this legally vital information, that will require many cities to upgrade their Web sites to meet a uniform standard, to ensure continued operation, to ensure their security from hacking, and to ensure that the archived information from past public notices remains accessible and secure as sites change to take advantage of new technology.  All of this would cut into the envisioned cost savings substantially.

If legal notices are posted in local government Web sites, local governments should know that setting up, maintaining and updating Web pages has costs associated with it as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support.

Paula

Paula Casey, Executive Director

Arizona Newspapers Association, Inc.

ANA Advertising Services, Inc.

1001 N. Central Ave., Suite 670

Phoenix, AZ  85004

(602) 261-7655, ext. 102

Cell (602) 769-8198

p.casey@ananews.com

http://www.ananews.com

http://www.publicnoticeads.com

http://www.ClassifiedArizona.com

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One Response to Threat to Public Notice

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for spreading the word about the public notice legislation. Trusting any government agency to provide transparent and verifiable public notices is like letting the fox guard the hen house.

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