In your community and throughout the U.S., every citizen has a right to know what its city, school district or water district is doing and how it affects their livelihood.
Because of this right, public entities are required to provide advance notice to the public about items that cost citizens money, affect their quality of life, determine elections and so on.
Public notice is a way to alert citizens about government and government-related activities that may cause them to want to take action.
And when more citizens have access to public notice, a broader representation of public opinion is available to governments.
For centuries, newspapers like this one, have been the place to find these public notices, in both print and more recently, digital formats.
Newspapers have been entrusted with public notice for good reason.
Long ago, information that concerned citizens was posted in the town square. Everyone could find the information and read it or have someone read it to them.
In 1665, the first English language newspaper printed public notices, The Oxford Gazette. This court newspaper later was named The London Gazette and it carried notices from the Kings Court, London officials and neighboring communities.
In America, our system of public notice closely resembles the British system. State governments printed public notices in colonial newspapers, and in 1789 the United States government established the Acts of the First Session of the Congress.
This act required all bills, orders, resolutions and congressional votes to be published in at least three, publicly available newspapers.
The purpose of this was to put the information in a place the public would likely notice and allow the people to have access to information about government activities.
Call it the beginning of transparency.
Newspapers are the best place for public notice because they provide four defining characteristics that set them apart from all other methods.
First, they are independent, third-party forums. Secondly, they have the ability to archive, and thirdly, those archives are accessible in a number of formats.
Lastly, but just as important, newspapers are verifiable. Once a public notice is published in a newspaper, a copy of the notice and an affidavit by the newspaper’s publisher confirms the original wording of the notice.
This may not seem like an important fact, but it can be if it involves something like land, or zoning, or elections.
Of course, progress has changed the way newspapers are published and how they are consumed, but the four defining characteristics are still very relevant.
The worst case for the public is to give governments sole ownership of public notice.
Historically, governments don’t do a good job of publishing information on websites.
Governments don’t operate in free markets that create competition to provide the best service for a reasonable price. And it would be very difficult, at best, to verify information provided by a governmental entity on a governmental website.
In early-2022, newspapers across Texas began participating in a state-wide database for their public notices.
The database is hosted by the Texas Press Association and represents hundreds of newspapers across the state.
You can access the site at texaspress.org and click on the Public Notice icon, or use the url https://texaspublicnotices.com.
Public notices can be searched by taxing entity such as city, school district, and by type of notice, such as ordinance, zoning and or election, to name a few.
The database provides one place to find public notice and it’s free, so it saves the public time and money.
To make it easy to find the database when you visit this newspaper’s website, you’ll find links sprinkled on its pages.
That’s just a part of the commitment newspapers provide to you and your community to help you exercise your right to public notice.
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