WHAT IS GOVERNOR CHRISTIE TRYING TO HIDE?
For over 100 years, governments and businesses in the U.S. have been required to inform the public about vital matters like government contract bids, variance applications, sub-division variance applications, foreclosures, sales of government property, government contract bids, and municipal tax sales.
But this week, Gov. Chris Christie and a group of legislators in Trenton fast-tracked a bill to move public notifications to seldom-visited government agency websites instead; sites for transactions, not for visiting to be notified of anything.
If the bill passes, New Jersey would be the first state in U.S. history to allow governments to hide this vital information on their own websites.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the simple idea of We can just post them on the Governments websites is innovative. Many others states have studied public notice laws in recent years including OH, IL, FL, and WI. Each state concluded there are principled reasons, public notices must continue to be published in newspapers and on the web.
NOTE: Governor Christie claims the bill doesn’t force your governments to stop using newspapers as the independent, third-party providers common-sense requires. They can just do so whenever they’re ready, he and others are saying. Exactly the problem. Unlike current law, the absurd permissive aspect of this horribly-flawed bill may be worst of all.
Why? For the first time in the states history, elected officials will have the power to threaten newsrooms and journalists with economic harm should they not provide favorable coverage of whoever happens to be in power, in your town, township, county, etc. Even the perception this could be happening should send a constitutional chill through everyone.
NOTE – They claim its about taking advantage of the Internet, but that’s nonsense. Since 2003 all notices have been uploaded to www.NJpublicnotices.com; fully searchable by date, town, type-of-notice, etc. They are archived and secure. They are translatable to over 100 world languages instantly.
If the bill passes, it requires governments to take over the ad placements for all individuals, businesses and law firms for free. They have no clue that the business of providing public notice requires much more than a simple upload. The municipalities apparently have no idea what they’re in for.
Neither Governor Christie nor the legislature have studied the operational impacts, nor calculated the increased costs governments will incur for taking over this important business to now be borne by taxpayers.
Governor Christie talks about the declining circulation of newspapers, but doesn’t reference the higher audiences also reading newspapers online. He talks about the Internet covering the state, but ignores that the meager web traffic of government websites is for transactional reasons at that not at all about the necessary notification.
You just need to look to Michigan to see what will happen. Just last month, the same environmental agency behind the Flint, Michigan water crisis found itself embroiled in another controversy because it posted on its website a legal notice about a private water grab that nobody saw for 42 days until a local newspaper reported about it.
Please, call your legislators to let them know that government secrecy is always wrong, and that A4429/S2855 is a bad bill for which they must vote NO on Monday.