OUR VIEW: Keep legals in the paperProbably one of the most popular features in our newspaper published Thursday on Page B7. City of Mitchell employees — every last one of them — had their salaries declared for all to see.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Probably one of the most popular features in our newspaper published Thursday on Page B7. City of Mitchell employees — every last one of them — had their salaries declared for all to see. Certainly, we nose through it, just like everyone else. We’re always curious to see who makes what. It’s just human nature. It’s also a good example of why records like these are open to the public. City employees work for the residents of Mitchell, plain and simple. It’s our business to know all things about money being spent by the city, and the salaries paid to employees are no exception.
Same goes for the salaries of the school district, the county and the state. It most certainly is our business, just like it’s our business to know how much the city spends on, say, pencils and Post-It notes.
Open records — and government openness in general — has been an oft-discussed topic lately in South Dakota.
Gains are being made, and that’s good news for all of us. Nothing is more frustrating than navigating roadblocks when seeking information that rightfully is yours to have.
It may seem trivial to someone who’s never tried it, but it’s maddening to those of us who have struggled to find basic public information only to be waylaid. The Daily Republic always will fight for openness.
The city salaries were published Thursday in our classified section, in what’s known commonly as the “legals.”
At present, government bodies are required to publish the legals in whatever newspaper has been declared official in their city, county or area. They’re required by law to do this.
Some people — including some members of the current state Legislature — want to see that law change. They say it’s an outdated process, and one that costs too much money. They say citizens can access that information somewhere else just as easily.
We see such discussion as just another roadblock against true openness. In the present system, people know exactly where to look for their legals, and they know that the information will exist forever within a newspaper’s archive system.
If legals were online, how would you know when they’re posted? When would you ever go looking for them?
Thanks to newspapers, you don’t have to know when legals will be published or ever go searching for them. They come to you in your daily paper.
And the truth is that legals only account for a very small fraction of a government’s overall budget — for many local governments, the cost of publishing legals is less than one-half of 1 percent of an entire year’s budget. The savings just won’t be worth it.
And besides, those legals are good reading and provide all sorts of vital information.
Keep legals in newspapers, where they belong.