Editor’s Column: Gov’t transparency and public notices

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Niki Turner
Would you rather be tickled to death, sneeze yourself to death or choke on your own spit and die?
Why do I ask? Because for the last few years I’ve been afflicted by regular sneezing fits that leave me weak and watery-eyed, with a stuffed up nose. But I’ll take sneezing over tickling any day. Tickling puts someone else in charge, and that’s not OK. And then there are those awkward moments when I randomly choke on my own saliva and wonder if that’s going to be my cause of death. Also better than tickling, but maybe not better than sneezing.
I may, or may not, get a choice in the matter. Most of us don’t. I read enough obituaries to know I want to have my own written and edited (by myself) before my time comes. The whole obit thing is a source of terrible stress for the family left behind. It’s better to write your own. Do it now, update it annually so it’s current. Tell the stories you’ve kept secret all these years. Say what you really want to say about your relatives. Above all, pick your own photo… not the one of you with three chins, a hairy tongue and an oxygen tube in your nose (the most recent one anyone can find of you because you haven’t digitized and of your good ones). Let’s be proactive about our own demise, because we can’t (legally) be proactive about anyone else’s, no matter how tempting.

For as long as I’ve been with the paper the towns and the county have faithfully published their monthly expenses in our public notices section, giving the public convenient access to government spending practices.
The Town of Meeker stopped publishing its check register in 2011, when the board and staff decided to stop sharing that information with the taxpaying public for a variety of reasons (to save a few bucks, to preserve the privacy of public employee payroll, etc.) Apparently, no one noticed until a few weeks ago. Shame on us, as the newspaper, for not paying more attention.
Town Administrator Scott Meszaros explained via email that the majority of towns in Colorado simply don’t bother to publish their monthly expenses, while some say they fulfill the requirement for publication by posting the information on their websites.
What does it accomplish to publish those kinds of notices in the newspaper of record, as has been the traditional practice since 1665?
1. It provides accountability. Having a third, independent party publish the information gives the government the appearance of transparency and openness.
2. It provides permanence. Electronic documents can easily be altered or lost… as in the case of some very famous emails we’re all tired of hearing about.
3. It provides accessibility to all, since everyone isn’t on the internet. Shocking, I know.
Meszaros and town attorney Melody Massih have assured me the town will be revisiting the issue in the near future. I trust the current board and staff will make the right decision for the sake of the public good.
Meanwhile, here’s a round of applause for Rangely, Dinosaur and the county for remaining compliant for all these years.
Thank you.