As I've noted here before, the new open meeting law that takes effect in Massachusetts on July 1 requires cities and towns to post meeting notices "in a manner conspicuously visible to the public at all hours." That 24/7 posting requirement has many local government officials concerned about how they will comply. Recently, the new Division of Open Government in the Attorney General's office invited public comment on a Notice Posting Proposal suggesting alternative posting methods.
Yesterday in The Republican in Springfield, State House reporter Dan Ring reported on this issue. Many local officials, he writes, are hoping that the AG decides that meeting notices need be posted only on local-government Web sites to comply with the law.
My fear is that Web-only notice will be insufficient to reach all citizens. Several recent studies say that a third of citizens still lack Internet access. Even those who do have access use it primarily for e-mail. They do not spend their days surfing local government Web sites in search of meeting notices.
There is another alternative that has withstood the test of time. I filed comments with the AG on behalf of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association suggesting that these notices be published in local newspapers. As it turns out, many cities and town already publish at least some of their meeting notices in newspapers. Newspapers are the established outlet for publication of government and official notices. I suspect the best way to reach the maximum number of people is to employ some combination of print and electronic notice.