State Sen. Mary Felzkowski has done a huge disservice to 12th Senate District voters and Wisconsin as a whole, voting recently to support a bill that would eliminate the publication of local meeting proceedings in community newspapers.

SB 55 would end the requirement that city councils, village boards, county boards, school boards and technical school districts publish their meeting minutes in the local newspaper.

The basic premise of our criticism is that open government requires that the people being governed have a trusted, independent place to go in order to learn about what their local government officials are up to.

The public should not be expected to seek out information on a government website. Information should be delivered to them by the government, and there is no better place for that than community newspapers that are also investing time and money into covering the actions of local government.

The public notice process exists to provide independent third-party oversight of government. And government should never be permitted to report on itself or post its own public notices on some obscure website.

Don’t believe government officials who claim our public notices are behind paywalls. When minutes and legal notices appear in print, they also are added to the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s website. Anyone can go to to find a single and fully searchable website for access to all public notices — free of charge.

Felzkowski has argued that it’s too costly for local units of government to be forced to publish their meeting minutes. Never mind that these local governments are spending millions in taxpayer dollars and that taxpayers, the people who are really in charge, deserve to know exactly how that money is being spent.

What local government spends on public notices to keep a light shining on their dealings is a tiny, virtually insignificant portion of their budget. The alternative, government websites, do not inform the public of anything.

Newspapers are the only form of notification that provides the necessary verification, certification and archiving that ensures that taxpayers’ rights are protected and preserved.

Sen. Felzkowski should be well-aware of these facts, for this newspaper and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association have worked tirelessly at trying to educate her on the most important issue — that the publication of public notices is vital to holding elected officials accountable.

So when our elected state senator turns her back on taxpayers and community newspapers and the public’s right to know, we are deeply concerned with her motives.

Newspapers keep an eye on government, shine the light on its actions, fight the good fight for access to documents and meetings, and champion transparency.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

   Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch, and reporters Doug Etten and Michelle Drew.