State Rep. Rick Niemeyer was trying to save county government some money with House Bill 1101. But those savings would have come at the public's expense.
The legislation, now before the House Local Government Committee, appears to be dead. Good thing.
Niemeyer, R-Lowell, proposed to eliminate the publication of the full list of properties to be sold for nonpayment of back taxes. In Lake County, as well as in other heavily populated areas, that's a long list of properties.
But simply telling people to go online to get the information or to pick up a printed copy at the county auditor's office isn't doing the public a service.
And this is, after all, about serving the public.
And let's face it. The number of page views for a county government website is typically nowhere near the circulation of a newspaper.
Nor does everyone have Internet access or the ability or inclination to go to the county auditor's office to pick up a copy of the list.
Putting the information in the newspaper, in printed form, gets it in front of the public in an easy-to-read format. There's no worry about printing the list, because the newspaper already has the entire printed list. Interested bidders and others simply have to circle the properties they're interested in.
But publishing the list is for more than just the bidders. The heft of a lengthy list helps show the extent of the problem. It's almost always not a matter of unwillingness to pay, but inability. Every member of the public ought to see that, and they do so when they lift the newspaper with that lengthy list published.
Everyone should see the long list of properties up for sale, with all the pertinent information for each property. Publication in a newspaper — at a greatly discounted rate, we should point out — is the best dissemination of this information.
Niemeyer's concern for limiting county spending is understandable, but this is not the way to accomplish it.