As an elected senator, I strongly believe that government transparency is a fundamental pillar of a healthy democracy. Public notices are an essential tool for keeping citizens informed about important government activities and decisions, but the current system of posting them as paid advertisements in newspapers is outdated, costly, and inefficient.
That’s why I filed Senate Bill 200 — to authorize Onslow County and our local municipalities to publish public notices electronically online at the county website. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting further debate and consideration in the state House of Representatives.
First and foremost, moving public notices online would save taxpayers a significant amount of money. The cost of publishing notices in newspapers can be exorbitant, especially for smaller local governments with limited budgets. By contrast, posting notices online is a much more cost-effective solution. Not only would it save taxpayers money, but it would also be more environmentally friendly, as it would eliminate the need to print thousands of notices on paper.
Secondly, posting public notices online would enhance government transparency. Online notices would be more accessible to the public than print notices, as they would be available 24/7 and easily searchable. Anyone could access them, including those who may not have access to a physical newspaper. Additionally, online notices could be posted more quickly, allowing citizens to stay up to date on government activities in real-time.
Just last week, The Fayetteville Observer — one of the state’s most prominent newspapers, founded in 1816 — announced it is ceasing its printing operation in Fayetteville “to reduce costs as customer demand for printed newspapers continues its long decline and consumption of news continues to rise on cellphones and computers.” It’s no fault of government that the business model is changing, and we still have a responsibility to be transparent through other means.
Finally, posting public notices online would allow local governments to reach a wider audience. While print notices are typically limited to subscribers of the newspaper or readers in a specific geographic area, online notices can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Citizens would no longer need to get past a paywall to follow along with the happenings of government.
In conclusion, the benefits of moving public notices online are clear. It would save taxpayers money, enhance government transparency, and allow local governments to reach a wider audience. As a public servant, I am committed to promoting government transparency and accountability, and I believe that posting public notices online is a crucial step in achieving that goal. It’s time for our government to embrace the digital age and move public notices online.