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Who cares about public notices? You should

By Christie Pool

Staff Writer

            I get it. There is no shortage of readers who get the Progress each week only to check out the nifty headlines (Cornhole Stabber Stabs Again and Country Fried Arson come to mind) and then turn to the Sheriff’s Beat to see what shenanigans our fellow citizens have gotten up to recently.                      Last week’s edition alone had a report of a deputy pulling over a woman whose driver’s license had been suspended for 26 years and told us about a drunk driver in the school pickup line at one of our elementary schools.

            We all have those stories we can’t wait to get our hands on. But the section we should also be perusing each week is in the back of the B section. The legal notices – those long columns of grey type. 

            Public notices have been around since the first Congress, and newspapers have been the designated recipients of public notices since the beginning. Local governments are required to make an effort to keep residents informed about issues affecting their communities, from the common to the substantial, and it’s all right there in the legals. The legals are the best example of government-in-the-sunshine.

            Legals alert us about proposed city, county, and school budgets and tax rates. They tell us when our governments are seeking bids for new infrastructure, changes in land use and other proposed ordinances. Property owners can learn if their city or county government is raising their property taxes or if apartments or warehouses could be popping up next door on property they thought was zoned for single-family residential. You can see who is seeking to change a zoning and this is the best way to keep tabs on what’s coming to your neck of the woods.

            Legal notices concerning budgets, public meetings, election dates, foreclosures, property auctions, and other important public matters are all there. 

            But it’s not just governmental matters that are laid out for us in the legals. A recent legal ad in the Progress informed readers about a public sale auction for storage lockers, one of which had Beatles glassware, another a Shelby Cobra car body, a couple of motorcycles, and yet another a piano. Want to know who is starting a new business, dissolving their business, or changing their name? The legals will tell you. Want to know where and when you can purchase an abandoned vehicle or who is petitioning to be named administrator of someone’s estate? It’s all right there on the legal pages.

            As a side note, newspapers continue to be the best place to post legals, as once they are printed they are as close to permanent as you can get. Send a few copies out to archives, have them stored in the library, at this newspaper and in files and desk drawers and on refrigerators and once they are there, they are immune from hacking or later changes or disappearing entirely.

            Our country’s founders instituted public notices because they wanted informed, engaged citizens.  

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