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Legal notices should remain in newspapers

Published 11:26am Saturday, January 19, 2013

I whole heartedly agree with The Daily Press editorial (“Heads up for taxpayers,” Jan. 17) wherein your paper points out, in fine manner I might add, that our elected leaders seem to be looking to shortchange our citizens by further diminishing their access to public hearings.

This shirking of their responsibility to keep their electorate informed is completely unacceptable to me and I think to most citizens that take an active interest in their local, state and federal government.

It is very enlightening when the vast sums spent by local governments to influence the opinion of its citizens versus the actual amounts spent on notices of public hearings that give the citizens a heads-up on what changes the governmental body is considered. Thank you.

Apparently a number of local governments seem to operate in this manner and are expanding their efforts at an increasing rate to not just inform them of the facts, but to tell them what they should conclude to be the benefits. Too often they gloss over, or more likely just ignore, any potential downside risks and waste of taxpayers money.

In Isle of Wight, the board of supervisors passed a $160 million water deal with Norfolk on the first night it was disclosed to the public, and no details of the deal were publicly disclosed beforehand. The board only held any public hearings after the fine points of the horrible deal were disclosed to the public through the efforts of the local papers.

As an elected official, I played a key role in helping disclose those details. I think it’s no small coincidence that three of the four of the rest of the other board members were not reelected in the next election and the fourth board member resigned.

I intend to write my local representatives that I absolutely oppose any effort to cut back on the publishing of public hearings in the local newspapers. I adamantly opposed some former members of our board when they tried to cut back on the advertising of public hearings by excluding The Smithfield Times in particular. I might add that The Smithfield Times often is the first to disclose any potential shenanigans out at the courthouse.

I continue to insist that all public hearings should, at a minimum, be advertised in The Smithfield Times and The Tidewater News as folks normally look first to their most locally focused newspaper for information. The Daily Press is usually also included in the public hearing advertising in an effort to inform those that don’t follow the non-daily papers.

I wish to point out that your list of representatives to contact failed to include Sen. Harry Blevins and Del. Rick Morris; both of which serve some portion of Isle of Wight.

I intend to write both of them as well as senators Mamie Locke and Tommy Norment. I believe all four represent one part or another of Isle of Wight, and I want them to know I oppose any cutback in publishing notices of public hearings in the newspaper.

I believe your paper along with all the others should be commended for your efforts to keep the public informed of the actions of the local, state and federal government.

I, like many others, lament the declining support by the public and local businesses of local newspapers.

I don’t know how many of the people I represent agree with my thinking, and I don’t intend to represent to the state representatives that my opinion reflects any viewpoint other than my own.

However I am pleased to report that I am the only member presently serving on the board of supervisors that has been reelected and was so by about 60 percent more votes than when I was first elected.

Please have a nice day, but also please consider adding some notice somewhere that Del. Morris and Sen. Blevins should also be contacted.

Websites perform a great service as a supplement to information published in the newspapers, but are a completely inadequate and inappropriate primary tool for keeping the public informed.

Thanks for all you do.

Al Casteen represents the Smithfield District on the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors and can be reached at acasteen@verizon.net

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