Westminster and Commerce City would no longer be required to post notifications of meetings, changes in regulations and other legal notices in local newspapers. That’s if voters give them permission to do so in the Nov. 7 elections.
Both cities are proposing that they instead post such notices on their websites.
Colorado Press Association Board of Directors’ President Brian Porter said the change might sound practical, but would make it more difficult for residents to keep track of what elected officials are doing.
“Newspapers are the go-to, trusted source of information for the community in which you reside,” Porter wrote in an email. “This is why our print products are well-read, and why we operate the highest traffic-volume websites in each community. The most appropriate and most valuable way to inform the community always has been and continues to be to publish the item in the newspaper.”
Porter said he hopes voters vote “No” on the measures.
Colorado statutes require cities and towns to post notices in full in a newspaper. But according to the Colorado Municipal League, home rule cities that have adopted their own charters, such as Westminster and Commerce City, may ask voters if they can opt out of that requirement to inform of the public of important government business through a newspaper.
At least 35 Colorado cities and towns have asked voters to let them opt out since 2008, and voters agreed to that change in 31 of those ballot measures.
Westminster’s ballot question gives city officials a choice, asking voters to permit the city to post meeting notices and ordinances on the city’s website or in newspapers or both – whichever they deem most effective. The current ordinance requires newspaper publication.
Commerce City’s question simply asks voters to change the city charter to allow legal notice of ordinances, documents and other legal publications on the city’s website.
Both cities are currently required to publish their legal notices in Colorado Community Media publications, the Westminster Window and Commerce City Sentinel Express.
Tim Regan-Porter, CEO for the Colorado Press Association, noted that having to scan multiple websites for legal notices makes it more difficult for residents to keep up – and easier to miss something important.
“Publication of crucial public information in newspapers is a requirement in all 50 states and these laws date back to the first acts of the U.S. Congress,” Regan-Porter wrote.
He noted that Colorado cities, towns, counties and special districts are also required to post their notices on a common website that the Press Association maintains, publicnoticecolorado.com.
“These local efforts to move this information to government websites violate the spirit of these laws and make public access more difficult and less reliable,” Regan-Porter wrote.
This article has been updated to correct the title of Brian Porter.