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Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency

Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use.

Legal publications in the Wichita Eagle, occupying nearly the entire page.
As Wichita’s new mayor takes office, there are a few things the city could do to increase the availability and distribution of government information. An easy project to accomplish would be placing legal notices on the city’s web page.

Kansas law requires that many legal notices must be printed in a newspaper. That law needs to be changed. Newspapers resist this reform, as it might mean a loss of revenue for them. (That’s right. Newspapers don’t print these notices as a public service.)

Although the law requires publishing notices in a newspaper, it doesn’t prohibit publishing them in electronic form. If governmental agencies would make their legal publications available in ways other than the newspaper, citizens would be better served.

The City of Wichita does some posting of legal notices on its website. Under the City Clerk section, there is a page titled “Legal Notices” that holds notices of bidding opportunities. This is good, but the notices that are important to most people are not on the city’s website.

Some of these notices appear in city council meeting agenda packets, where they may be buried in 500 pages of other material.

Posting all city legal notices on the city’s website would be easy to do. It would be quite inexpensive, as the copy is already in electronic form. The notices would become searchable through Google and other methods. Interested parties could capture and store this material for their own use. Once people get used to this method of publication, it will make it easier to get state law changed.

Posting legal notices on its website is an easy way for the City of Wichita to start increasing transparency of its operations. Let’s get started, Mayor Whipple.

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