State Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D- 63rd District) has proposed a bill (AB-642) that will make it significantly more difficult for residents in his district and all across California to get information about what government is doing in their names and with their tax dollars.
AB 642 lowers the standard for how information in disseminated, and is an affront to the people’s “Right to Know.”
What AB 642 does is gut the standards for where public and legal notices are published, which have traditionally required that they be posted in adjudicated newspapers of general circulation which provide locally relevant content to its readers, and that have invested in those communities for a period of time.
Rendon’s bill allows Internet-only sites to become local, adjudicated, “newspapers’ of record, without any clear guidelines to ensure that the sites are actually locally run or provide original content.
In effect, he is telling the residents of his district that he wants to place on them the added burden of having to go from website to website, and through long lists of public notices to find those that will affect them. His bill presumes that people will somehow always know that there is a notice of action that they need to know about, and that instead of turning to their local newspapers for the information, will be happy to spend their time searching the Internet to find the information their government is supposed to provide.
We are surprised that Mr. Rendon would put forth this proposal given the area he represents—which includes the cities of Bell, Maywood, and South Gate — where in the not too distant past residents fell victim to questionable behavior or extravagant spending by local city representatives, and where transparency was far from the norm.
It is particularly troubling given that studies show that many in his district, particularly Latinos, are less Internet savvy, or victims of what is regularly referred to as the Digital Divide.
Residents in his district may have little access to vital information about their community except through their local adjudicated newspapers, such as this one, so why Mr. Rendon wants to deprive them of this source is beyond us.
Local city clerks, school boards, water districts, traffic notices, health notices, political and voting notices are all posted in local adjudicated newspaper along with local community news of interest.
The changes AB 642 would make will severely hamper the community’s right to know by making it more difficult for citizens, taxpayers, property owners and others to access information that could pertain to them, whether in the form of notices about local public works projects, land use and environmental issues, delinquent taxes that could result in property seizure, termination of parental rights, contracting opportunities, or ways to mitigate issues arising from government action.
We urge Assemblyman Rendon to rethink this legislation and to come up on the side of greater transparency, rather than more Internet noise.