Readers beware!

•Legislative proposal includes the moving of legal notices to the Internet.Dear readers, You, as a citizen of a democracy have the right to know. You have a right to know how your elected officials conduct business on your behalf. You as a citizen of Nebraska are in danger of losing that transparency. This newspaper contains a very important section called ‘Public Notices’ or Legals. This is where our elected officials are required, by law, to publically record their actions. On these pages one can discover how our elected officials cast their votes and how they spent your hard earned dollars. You know when and where they are going to meet, and for what purpose. Then, once the meeting is concluded the outcomes of any action items have to be recorded in print. This is where corporations and the final estates are published. Yes, it is even where someone has to publicly declare they are filing for a liquor license, or have an item owned by the public for sale. These are the pages that keep our government transparent. They may very well be the most important pages our newspaper prints each week, because, as a citizen of a democracy, you have the right to know. There are presently two bills being discussed in committee at the state unicameral this session that have the potential of masking this transparency. For many of our citizens, it would put our elected officials, school boards, county boards, city councils, behind closed doors. The bills were announced last week, with the public hearings scheduled only days later. I strongly believe that what makes us as a nation strong is our democracy, and the accountability we place on those we elect to office. The two bills that have the potential to change our populace’s access to this information are LB 150 and LB 444. Both bills would require all governmental entities, school boards, city councils, board of supervisors, etc. to publish their legals on a state website. The intent is to have the legals published on the internet in lieu of in the newspaper. Reasons being offered for the change are money, and convenience. The reasoning I present here, in opposition to this action, is your right, and your neighbor’s right to know. As the publisher of this paper, I’d like to provide some points to ponder: When a legal is published in a newspaper there is permanence about the action. Once in print, it cannot be changed, nor can it be altered. It can’t be ‘hacked.’ Once it leaves the press, it is a done deal. The Internet cannot provide that same permanence, nor can it provide that same level of confidence. The paper serves as an historical record to the proceedings. And you have a right to know, and our elected officials have the obligation to be held accountable. When a legal is published in a newspaper, our paper provides written, notarized, ‘proof of publication’ and a copy of the legal as it was printed. We print the legals and ‘prove’ that we printed them as they were sent to us. A legal printed in a newspaper is capable of being archived in a secure and publicly available format. In addition to our subscriber’s homes, you find weekly community papers in doctor’s offices, barber shops, repair shops, restaurants, gas stations, schools, banks and law offices among others. And most importantly you also find them archived in libraries and historical societies for the readers of today and future generations. It is accessible by all segments of our population, regardless of age or economics - all have a right to know. In a Democracy everyone has a voice. The newspaper and its readers are the watchdogs of our government. It is our job, our calling to keep our elected officials honest. The printing of legals in newspapers is a critical tool to making sure that happens. Information printed in a newspaper finds us. Information on the Internet doesn’t find us, it is information we have to seek out. If I were an elected official, I would want the public to have faith that all of my actions in their behalf were out in the open where they should be. Sequestering the legals to the Internet could make me seem suspicious, because those members of the democratic society whom I am elected to represent, have a right to know. Unfortunately, like it or not, Nebraska is subject to frequent storms, tornadoes, ice storms, snow storms, etc. Just about every year such a storm knocks out the power. Even when the weather comes in, our newspapers never fail to publish. But even in weather, even if the issue is delayed, we still deliver. Just to add one more point to ponder. The U.S. Census estimates that Internet connectivity is at about 55 percent. It serves a wonderful purpose. I for one enjoy the Internet immensely, but it simply cannot do, what our newspapers can do when it comes to the publication of legals. By the way, recent surveys say, when it comes to raw numbers, every copy of a newspaper published in Nebraska is read by two or three people. More than 8 out of 10 adults read a Nebraska paper. Oh, more people in the United States come next Sunday will read a newspaper than will watch the Super Bowl. There is something you can do. These bills are being introduced through the Government and Military Affairs Committee. Senator Bill Avery of Lincoln is the chair. Write our Senator Deb Fischer and the members of Bill Avery’s committee and let them know what you think. Is it your right to know. And thanks for listening. Deb McCaslin, Custer County Chief PublisherHere are their addresses. •Senator Deb Fischer, Dist. 43PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Bill Avery, Dist. 28PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Lydia Brasch, Dist. 16PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Scott Price, Dist. 3PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Rich Pahls, Dist. 31PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Paul Schumacher, District 22, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Kate Sullivan, Dist. 41PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Charlie Janssen, District 15, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604•Senator Russ Karpisek, District 32, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604