Losing public notices to the web would be no day at the beach

By BRYAN DAVIS EDITOR,

This past weekend, Callie and I took the girls down to Biloxi for a long weekend.

I know. February is an odd month to take the family to the beach.

It just so happens that my mom took a job as a travel nurse at a hospital in Harrison County, and she and my dad invited us down to stay the weekend.

It was far too blustery to get into the water, but the food was great, and in February, the lines at all the restaurants and tourist attractions are relatively short.

The hotel stay was by far the worst part of it. I’m not going to name the franchise, but it was subpar at best.

They even found some version of WiFi that was worse than dialup internet from the 90s.

In fact, the internet connection as a whole in Harrison County was pretty terrible.

I have my phone and internet through one of the most reliable networks in the country, and I could hardly pull up my Maps app to get from point A to point B.

That’s ironic considering three Harrison County legislators have authored bills in the Mississippi House and Senate that would give local governments the option of not running crucial government notices, like tax delinquencies, in the local newspaper, but rather on a government-run website.

State Sen. Scott Delano, Rep. Greg Haney and Rep. Randall Patterson are the principal authors of the bills. They are all Republicans.

This is nothing new.

These bills come up every year, and each year the Mississippi Press Association and its members fight them.

And thus far, we have won each time.

The case for keeping these government notices in newspapers is simple.

Surveys conducted show that 70 percent of Mississippi citizens read their local newspaper faithfully.

For most small municipalities and rural county governments, publishing public notices in the paper is the most reliable, efficient and most cost-effective for the taxpayers, compared to the prospect of building and maintaining a website.

Considering I might have caught Harrison County on a bad weekend for cell service, most of Mississippi is rural, and there are thousands who do not have reliable access to computers or the internet.

And even if they did, who is checking government websites for water permits, planning board agendas and tax notices?

These bills also assume that governments who pass ordinances allowing for online publication over print media will remain faithful in posting these in a timely manner.

Mississippi Republicans have become known, rightfully so, for their valiant attempts to save the taxpayers money by cutting government waste, but they continue to miss the mark when it comes to public notices.

The citizens of Mississippi have access, each week, to these crucial legal notices for about the price of a cup of coffee, sometimes less.

When you factor in the reliability of local newspapers, and even the rates charged for these notices, the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck with us.

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