Government shouldn’t control what you know

The Michigan Press Association public policy staff is meeting with members of the state House Committee on Local Government to follow up on testimony given recently on House Bill 5560, which would pull newspaper-based notices and place them on government websites.
Jun 27, 2014


Legislators say the No. 1 reason HB 5560 should be signed into law is that “it will save government money.” MPA staffers are quick to point out that we have yet to see any verifiable data that supports this argument. 

Interest groups supporting this legislation — such as the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Association of Counties — claim that money spent on these notices could be used to save police and fire jobs. 

The truth of the matter is, governments across the state spend on the average less than 0.06 percent of their general funds on such notices, and that’s before the cost of many of these notices are reimbursed by people seeking government action. 

These government groups claim they spend too much on public notices in newspapers and, if they can’t find a way to trim the costs, they would be forced to cut police and fire staff. They make it an either-or issue — no ifs, ands or buts.

We’d like to suggest that there are other ways these government groups can reduce costs, such as:

— Reducing the $5,500 spent on baseball umpires in Niles. Niles spent $2,622.11 on notices. Does Niles think baseball umpires are more important than protecting property from foreclosure?

— Meridian Township financing employee computers for personal use.

— Lobbying reports on the Michigan Secretary of State website show that, in 2012, the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association spent a combined $166,000 on lobbying expenses for things other than mailings and food. This is tip of the iceberg when examining the amount of money local units of government are spending for lobbying. One multi-client firm in Lansing alone represents more than 21 governmental groups from counties, to cities and drain commissions. One city paid this firm more than $16,000 to lobby for them in Lansing last year. Maybe cutting the layers of lobbyists might be more prudent than eliminating firefighters and police officers, or weakening the public’s ability to know what their government is doing.

— Scaling back three-night stays at four-star hotels for conferences that feature "all-day shopping sprees,” Cirque Dreams Illumination at DeVos Performance Hall and "Culinary Delight at Fredrick Meijer Gardens.” The Michigan Townships Association ran up a $250,000 bill on rooms for that three-night event. Newspapers in Michigan used to hold two-night conferences, but had to scale back to one-day events and webinars when the state’s economy went bad. So, here's an idea to save some of the precious tax dollars these municipalities claim they want to save: Do what newspapers and other businesses do — hold a webinar.Some would say that those examples are reason enough to walk away from this legislation. But there’s a more fundamental reason why such legislation is bad public policy.

While we’re sure these government officials mean well, the fact of the matter is that these groups are setting up a system that’s akin to allowing a fox to guard a hen house.

Keeping an independent and proof-positive "beyond the shadow of a doubt" model intact with these notices makes sense. That's what newspapers do.

What the counties, townships and MML want you to do is have government take a function away from private industry. And that is reverse privatization.



I doubt that the Michigan Press Association is trying to protect the right of the people to "know." Very large fees are charged for posting bids, notices, etc. in local papers. It's all about advertising revenue - and that revenue is coming from our taxes. In today's world, most of us are capable of accessing government Web sites to garner the information we need. Perhaps newspapers should look into lowing advertising/posting costs for local governmental agencies. This paper is correct about the Michigan Municipal League,
however. Municipal membership fees are based on the amount of revenue sharing collected by member municipalities and townships. The more dollars Lansing collects and remits to local governments, the larger the League's coffers will grow. You can check the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on that one. This is why the MML has actually used our taxes to lobby for higher taxes!


How can you disagree with House Bill 5560, which would pull newspaper-based notices and place them on government websites? We all know that government is more efficient and effective than the private sector. We all understand that the new employees required to be hired by the government for this new responsibility would receive less in pay and benefits than private newspapers pay their employees. We all know how good the government is at building and managing websites, and archiving important data. We all know that the government would simply raise taxes to cover any new requirements posed by this legislation.

Where in the Wide Wide World of Sports (Blazing Saddles reference), or in the U.S. Constitution or the Michigan Constitution is this a responsibility that should be stolen from the private sector? So much for the limited government set up under the Supreme Law of the Land. How big a step is the next idea that all news should be obtained from government sources, to ensure "fairness" and no bias in the news. (Remember that they are still attempting to regulate the internet under the guise of "Net Neutrality" and Obama has ceded our oversight of the internet to the UN.)

If you think this is howling at the moon, you probably don't know that Senate Democrats are actively engaged in eviscerating the First Amendment with respect to campaign donations, contrary to the Constitution and rulings of the Supreme Court.

Oh well, if government can simply take over our health care system, if it can force bakers to bake wedding cakes for homosexuals, and if Obama can unilaterally decide we need to let millions of illegals into the country, grant them amnesty, access to free health insurance and welfare while taking jobs from Americans, how big a deal is stealing revenue from private sector news organizations, which are obviously flush with cash? Maybe they can advertise for colonoscopies from government doctors as a way to offset the costs of running the website - they are certainly experts in that particular procedure.


LESS Government! Period! NO more Oblamer. PERIOD


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.