Community News Legal Notices Cancelled
County Council by its narrowest margin enacted an ordinance eliminating the requirement that the Department of Land Use advertise public hearings in community newspapers.
Joseph Amon, publisher of Community News, testified before the seven-to-six vote on July 24 that the move would deprive "close to 200,000 readers," who depend upon the publication's five zoned editions as their best source for "fair and balanced" local news, of information that is important to them. He implied that the ordinance was one of "many attempts to influence the printed word." Councilman George Smiley, who sponsored the ordinance, replied that it "is not retaliatory legislation in any way." He said that its intent is to save county government $172,000 a year in light of its budget problems.
He said he was not against press coverage. "As much as I hate to say it, we'll still support the News Journal," he said. State law requires that paid-for legal notices be published in a newspaper of general circulation. Councilman Bill Bell said he was surprised to learn that the department did not provide for that spending in its fiscal 2008 budget. "If it's not in their budget, haven't they already decided it" before Council acted, he said. Smiley said the money was not budgeted because the county administration assumed that since Council had cut its own legal-notices requirements "we would not be doing less" for the department. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)
Voting in favor of the ordinance were: Smiley, Council president Paul Clark, Penrose Hollins, Joseph Reda, Timothy Sheldon, Jea Street and David Tackett. Opposed were: Bell, John Cartier, Stephanie McClellan, William Powers, William Tansey and Robert Weiner.
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