By David Bordewyk / SDNA
Earlier this month, Gov. Dennis Daugaard wrote in his weekly column about moving state government toward more transparency and accessibility.
Specifically, he wrote about the launch of a new state government website that makes it easier for the public to learn about administrative rules and regulations that are proposed and implemented by various state agencies. The new website is rules.sd.gov.
Congratulations to the governor for creating a practical and useful website that will well serve the citizens of South Dakotans. And thank you to Gov. Daugaard for bringing attention to the need for transparency in government.
“I strongly believe that the workings of government should be as transparent as possible,” the governor wrote in column. “As South Dakota citizens, you deserve the opportunity to know about and participate in your government.”
Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more.
Last month the 130 member newspapers of South Dakota Newspaper Association observed the first-ever Public Notices Month in South Dakota. It was an opportunity to bring attention public notices such as school board minutes and delinquent property tax lists published in the local newspaper and the role they play in our democracy.
Just like the point made by the governor in his column, public notices in the local newspaper create the opportunity for you as citizens and taxpayers to know about and participate in your government.
A key point to remember is that public notices published in the local newspaper involves an independent, third-party authentification step in the process of delivering the public notices to the public. That third party is the newspaper.
The newspaper, as publisher of government public notices, provides an independent verification and delivery of government information. It is more powerful and more effective than government itself being the sole author, editor and distributor of information that you as taxpayers need to know.
And it’s permanent. Public notices published in the local newspaper create a bonafide record that cannot be hacked, manipulated or deleted. It’s ink on paper.
To be sure, the newspapers in South Dakota recognize the role of the internet as a medium for searching and accessing almost anything when it comes to information. That is why the 130 newspapers in our state have cooperated to provide www.sdpublicnotices.com, a searchable website that aggregates all of the public notices first published in the local newspaper. Newspapers provide that website at no charge to government.
But it all begins with the publication of a government notice in your local newspaper. We dubbed our Public Notices Month observance with a “VIP” theme. Verifiable, independent and permanent. Or, valuable, important and public. Either way, these are all adjectives that describe the significance of public notices published in your local newspaper.
As the governor wrote in his column: “Even when information is open, however, it isn’t very useful when it cannot be easily accessed. Putting information online, in one location, with appropriate explanation, allows the public to participate in government at a higher level.”
I like to think that publishing public notices in the local newspaper that is complete with other local, relevant news and information and that is delivered to your doorstep or mailbox can take that public participation to an even higher level yet.
It makes you – the citizen – a VIP.
(David Bordewyk is general manager of South Dakota Newspaper Association, which is based in Brookings and represents the state’s 130 weekly and daily newspapers with a total readership of more than 600,000.)