As a reader of this newspaper or others, you’re likely familiar with a section – typically found toward the back of the book – headlined “public notices.”

The installment carried in Friday’s Press Herald contained, among other things, information about an upcoming vote on a parcel of land in the town of New Gloucester, another on a conservation project in East Windham and notice of a bed relicensing project at a South Portland nursing facility. This drumbeat of announcements has been going on for decades.

A bill currently circulating in Augusta marks the latest attempt to put an end to that in Maine; it would have municipalities publish notices on the town website instead. And that’s if there is a website. According to testimony against the bill by Myles Smith, executive director of the Maine Broadband Coalition, “176 Maine municipalities do not have a town website, and some do not even have an email address.”

For that reason and many others, we’re strongly opposed to any proposal to remove the legal requirement for public notices’ appearance in print.

Our opposition requires an element of disclosure: Public notices provide newspapers like ours with a dependable and important revenue stream, the removal of which would sting, eventually costing jobs and impeding local journalism.

The greater argument for retention of public notices in print, in a dependable, centralized location – if not altogether unrelated from the structural support they can lend to newspapers – is that they continue to serve a vital democratic function. And they promote badly needed involvement in local government.


There’s the question of access. Tens of thousands of copies of newspapers are distributed in Maine’s towns and cities each week. No computer, no phone, no internet connection (and approximately 80,000 households in Maine do not have one) – no problem.

You can read through the notices standing up at a café and keep moving. You can find a copy of the notices, as many of our readers do, at your local library. You can come across a citizen alert, meant for you, that you didn’t have to go looking for. “We behave differently on the internet,” reads a 2019 report by specialist nonprofit the Public Notice Resource Center. “Although digital interfaces at their best encourage serendipity, they are often focused on the sensational. Public notices don’t stand a chance in that environment.”

Even online, however, the regular audience of a news outlet is greater and infinitely more engaged than the visitors to a municipal website.

Moreover, having newspapers like our own insist that public notices run in accordance with the law acts as a valuable check on what would otherwise be a fragmented and variable process, municipal government to municipal government.

The rationale for seeking to remove public notices from print generally comes down to money.

The Maine bill, An Act to Eliminate the Requirement that Municipalities Provide Public Notice in Newspapers, operates on the same basis. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Bill Pluecker, told his local paper: “This is an avenue to allow towns to make their own choices about how to provide public notices, in line with our home rule way of life in Maine. If the residents of the town want their town to advertise in newspapers, then they may continue to do so. The people of Maine are drowning under property taxes, if we can reduce regulation on the state level to address this, then we should do so.”


To that we say: It’s better for towns not to make their own choices about notices.

This column ends with a formal disclaimer regarding the Press Herald’s financial interest in the future of revenue from notices. What if calls for their removal by local government officials included a disclaimer that – much apart from ensuring municipalities to meet an appropriate standard of transparency that they do not otherwise have an outlet to do – the public records requirement funds the organizations that primarily hold local government accountable?

The public and civic cost exacted by this proposal would be far greater than any financial savings.

This is an exclusionary, short-sighted call and it shouldn’t be heeded.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram generates revenue through required government public notices. On March 2, representatives of our parent company testified against L.D. 422.

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