Recently, we had a chat with Hamtramck City Manager Bill Cooper who gave us an interesting tip.
There is pending legislation in the Michigan House in which local governments would no longer be required to publish their public notices in their local newspapers. Instead, the law would be changed to allow communities to post their notices to the public via the Internet, which would most likely be their own website.
The thinking behind this proposal is to allow cities to save money in advertising costs. At first glance, considering the tough economic times of survival, it makes sense.
But in the bigger picture of things, this is a disturbing proposal and will result in local government being less transparent and becoming out of reach for many people who still don’t have access to the Internet.
We should be upfront before we continue: The Review has the potential of earning about $10,000 a year from city advertising.
That’s not exactly a huge savings, but it is indeed a nice chunk of change.
However, we publish 5,000 copies of The Review each week and there have been few returns left over. That’s pretty deep penetration into the community.
Anyone want to guess how many people visit the city’s website in a given week? Maybe a handful or to be generous, 300?
Bill Cooper said he supports the change in the state law. It’s about saving money any which way he can.
We’re not surprise to hear that. But he’s looking at this issue strictly as a money issue. It is so much more than that.
Those public notices will, ironically, go unnoticed if the city is allowed to skip advertising in the local newspaper. By publishing notices for bids in a little seen website, it begs the question, could this lead, down the road, to shady, behind the scenes deals?
We’re not suggesting Bill Cooper or any of our current public officials are inclined to this course of action, but we are saying it’s a slippery slope in the years to come.
We need more openness in government, not less. Sometimes the cost of keeping appearances above board is worth a few dollars extra. Let’s encourage the city – and our state legislators — to keep shining a light on city government and to steer away from hiding information.