Editorial: His ridiculous claim is wrong; transparency, access is paramount


Harry Warren, the N.C. House of Representatives member from Rowan County, is among the dubious leaders early in this session of the General Assembly for most ridiculous claim.

At a committee meeting considering whether public notices should be moved to websites only and taken out of newspapers, the Republican told the group it is “easier than searching through page after page of a newspaper.”

Warren is probably an intelligent man. Just not on this subject.

Or more accurately, he’s posturing and playing political games. As we approach Sunshine Week, anybody with any measure of common sense knows that laws enacted to put public notices in a single place the general public can easily find them is best for the public good.

And yes, Rep. Warren, it is easy to simply look on a newspaper’s front page, see the index listings, and turn to the Classifieds section. “Through page after page” is more apt to describe going to a government website.

Make that multiple government websites. Because, after all, if each is allowed to post the public notices without adherence to putting them in a single place, that’s what all of us have to do.

In Bladen County, that would be seven communities — not all of which even have a website. Plus the county website. Plus the school district. Plus …

We don’t hide from the fact the Bladen Journal has a financial interest in public notice laws. Fortunately, the two bills filed in the House — HB 35, HB 51 — do not include Bladen. They do include 14 counties in the Piedmont and 12 in eastern North Carolina.

Out of 100, the ability for momentum to shift on this can’t be underestimated.

If posting notices becomes optional, local government officials “can dangle that like a carrot if they’re not happy with the coverage or stance of the newspaper,” said Washington Daily News Publisher Ashley Vansant.

He’s right.

And if elected politicians want, they can have said websites designed in any manner that trend away from being user-friendly — and transparent. Some already meet that distinction.

No, these two bills do not target Bladen County. And Rep. William Brisson of Dublin has assured us he’s against any measures for this or any other county.

We can take some encouragement in that.

But no county or municipality in this state should be subjected to such a change. The public has a right to know about government hearings and meetings; zoning, annexation and land use changes; elections; municipal budgets, taxes and special assessment information; requests for bids on government construction and service contracts; permit and licensing applications, land and water use regulations; judicial and executive sales, disposal of foreclosed and abandoned property — all of these items and more.

Public notices and legal ads need to be easily found. The newspaper continues to be that place. There is historical preservation, and easy public access.

Whatever Rep. Warren wants to hide, we hope his constituents give him an earful. And, for good measure, send him packing next election.