Dark forces at work

By: 
NLJ Staff

There is a dark movement afoot designed to weaken your right to know what your local government does and how they spend your money. This movement is funded 100% by taxpayer dollars with zero accountability to the taxpayers.

For over a decade the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and the County Commissioners Association have diligently worked behind the scenes to weaken or eliminate the requirement that local government publish their meeting minutes, expenses and salaries in a newspaper of general circulation in the county.

For years, a coalition of good government and government transparency activists including the League of Women Voters, the Wyoming Liberty Group, the Equality State Policy Center and the Wyoming Press Association have beaten back the effort to reduce or eliminate public notices. They were largely successful because the primary argument these associations used was expense, despite the fact that the cost is very low due to the state mandating the maximum that newspapers may charge to publish these notices.

These dark money associations were patient though. They bided their time lurking and waiting for the perfect opportunity. And with a national pandemic threatening government budgets from top to bottom, they seized their opportunity.

Last month WAM and WCCA convinced the Joint Corporations Committee of the Wyoming Legislature to draft a bill eliminating some public notices. WAM lied when asking the committee to look at removing notices from newspapers saying that there are lots of costs to publishing “things” when less and less people go to the papers, and there needs to be a look at where people actually go for information.

The fact is, since the coronavirus pandemic, more and more people look to local newspapers for trusted, vital information. And the cost? In Weston County less than 0.08%  of taxpayer dollars are spent to keep you, the taxpayer, informed.

Studies have shown that when public notices are eliminated, spending on government goes up. Thanks to public notices, readers of the News Letter Journal know that the winner of next month’s Newcastle Mayor’s race will make $7,200 each year.

In Bell, California, that was not the case, and left unchecked, the city’s manager was soon taking home $787,000 per year. Bell is a suburb of Los Angeles with a population of about 38,000. Local residents long wondered how the city manager was able to afford a multi-million-dollar luxury home on the beach, but it took an investigation by the Los Angeles Times to discover that the manager’s salary had increased tenfold in 17 years. That same investigation also found that the chief of police was earning $450,000 — more than 50 percent more than the salary of Los Angeles’ chief of police.

Public notices in local newspapers ensure that anyone who reads the newspaper can know what their government is up to. What bids are being let? To whom and for how much? How much did the county commission spend on new
equipment?

And you don’t even have to buy a paper to get this information because it’s free at the local library and local newspaper websites or statewide at wyopublicnotices.com. We allow anybody who visits newslj.com to read our published legal notices without a subscription, which means that in addition to our print and online subscribers and their families, the 2,500 people who follow us on social media and 200,000-plus visitors to our website each month can all access the legal notices we publish with one just
one click.

Public notices provide a permanent, secure and independent repository that keeps government in check by allowing citizens to know how their money is being spent and what their elected officials are doing, and they should be distributed and stored by an independent third party. In the history of this country, nobody has ever done a better job of performing that function than newspapers, and there still isn’t an entity or industry that can come anywhere near to our performance for security, accountability and cost
effectiveness.

It’s not even close.

Category:

News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

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