State Rep. Goes After Newspaper Lifeline to Save Tax Dollars

Except for a front page ad for Castle Bank, the only ads I see in the new free newspaper, McHenry Chronicle, are legal ads.  Here is the back page of its February 18, 2015, edition.  There are five more pages filled with the teeny tiny print of legal advertising.

Except for a 2 12/ by 3 18 inch front page ad for Castle Bank, the only ads I see in the new free newspaper, McHenry Chronicle, are legal ads. Here is the back page of its February 18, 2015, edition. There are five more pages filled with the teeny tiny print of legal advertising. Most seem to be about financial problems people have.

It’s pretty obvious that newspapers are in trouble.

Circulation is down.

Display advertising is way down.

But legal advertising still keeps the presses rolling.

Now comes State Rep. Joe Sosnowski (representing an area I represented in the 1970’s–Boone, northern DeKalb and eastern Winnebago Counties) with a suggestion that would save local governments oodles of money, but hurt the bottom line of newspapers substantially.

Public Notices and Common Sense Savings


Comments

State Rep. Goes After Newspaper Lifeline to Save Tax Dollars — 2 Comments

  1. Looking at the bill.

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/99/HB/09900HB0261.htm

    Some proposed changes to the bill as it currently exists.

    1. What would be the penalty for non-compliance.

    As a precedent, there is lots of non-compliance for the public acts requiring taxing districts to post salary and benefit reports and collective bargaining agreements on their website.

    Public Act

    2. The words “Legal Notices” must appear on the home page of the taxing district website.

    Here’s some more explanation on that.

    Here is one sentence from the bill as it currently exists.

    “The governmental unit’s official Internet website shall prominently display a link to the notice web page, which shall be an index web page, containing a list of all current legal notices of the unit, with links to the full text of those notices.”

    “…prominently displayed…” does not work.

    This sounds nit picky, but if you understand how many taxing districts in Illinois operate, it’s necessary.

    “Prominently displayed” allows taxing districts to choose the wording that’s prominently displayed.

    Big mistake in Illinois.

    Here is an example of something that should be incorporated into the above sentence so taxing districts don’t play games.

    Not that there’s anything magical about these exact words, rather it’s the concept.

    “The words ‘Legal Notices’ with a link to the legal notices must appear on the home page of the government unit’s official Internet Website.”

    Why?

    Because when posting salary and compensation reports, and collective bargaining agreements, on their website (if they bother to post them), many taxing districts title the compensation reports with the words “Public Act xx-xxxx” or “PA xx-xxxx” and don’t include the words “Compensation Report” or “collective bargaining agreement.”

    How many people know the public act numbers of the compensation reports, and collective bargaining agreements, that are legally required to be posted on taxing district websites?

    They are PA 95-0707, PA 96-0266, PA 96-0434, PA 97-0256, & PA 97-0609.

    A few of those may have been merged.

    Here’s the current text to Sosnowski’s bill.

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=261&GAID=13&LegID=83985&SpecSess=0&Session=0

    Also Sosnowski’s bill eliminates this http://www.publicnoticeillinois.com website; which has its pros and cons.

    Finally, some public notices are more noteworthy than others.

    Intent to issue non-referendum bonds for example.

    And how about contractors that want to know about contracts coming up for bid?

    Now you can scan “bid notices” in the newspaper.

    Does this bill eliminate the posting of “bid notices” in the newspaper?

    If so, contractors have to visit the websites of all taxing districts every day?

    And actually some people do read public notices in the newspapers.

    Instead of just reading the public notices section of one newspaper, with the passage of this bill, now such people have to visit each taxing district website.

    Maybe the cost savings justify such a bill, but there’s a little more to it than advertised.

    Maybe a modification to the bill is certain public notices would continue to be published in newspapers, such as bid notices, non-referendum bonds, and there are others.

    Presumably the bill would result in more search engine hits, because now public notices rarely appear in search engine results, and the notices seem to not be archived on the newspaper websites, vanishing after after a day or two (maybe some newspapers archive public notices or are more search engine friendly than others?).

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