Confehr: Public notices needed for you

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two issues came up this week with a bearing on Marshall County residents. They seem to outshine a plan to consider, during this Easter weekend, suggesting forgiveness for a former school board member who's now working out of state and the newest member of that panel.

Meanwhile, foreclosures have been rampant here recently. Some blame factory closures like ICP and Sanford. Foreclosure was mentioned by a loan officer a few years ago as having a significant impact on the housing market here. The housing market's bubble burst and sub-prime mortgages also had an effect.

But now, a reform mentality among lawmakers has taken aim at practically every safety net for people. Systems put in place to maintain a working class in our society are being cut in the name of savings - which they're not. Collective bargaining by local school employees was one.

It's as if some business-minded politicians forgot that if you hurt the working class, you ruin the largest group of people who would be customers for the businesses that need to grow out of the hole in our economy.

A continuation of such foolishness continues as the banking lobby is trying to cut corners and reduce the prospect of notifying people of a pending foreclosure. Cost is one reason cited. They don't want to be required to advertise as much in newspapers like this one. They'd like to reduce the announcements that a bank has decided to take a house.

The notice provides at least a couple of safety nets. It's a way to be sure the defaulting debtor knows what's happening. It's also a way to show that foreclosure is being used. Some banks consult with their customers and are sure the debt is bad. Others may be stuck. Still others may just follow a chart. Therein lies the problem.

There's another state law that's been a stumbling block. It's about holding special meetings to finalize changes planned for the city's ordinance specifying how graves may be decorated in city-owned cemeteries.

If councilmen want to do something as councilmen, they are to do it during a public meeting. Without an indication that there was a third man to vote for a special meeting, the issue died during the monthly session. But, after the meeting there appeared to be a change of heart in one councilman and at least one other councilman last week took steps to schedule a special meeting on cemetery rules.

That was reported and it seemed as though there was to be a special called session of Lewisburg's Council on April 26. But a question, first raised by the Tribune, elicited an answer: Councilmen who want a special meeting should request one during an open meeting. If it's done outside a public meeting - or right after one that had been adjourned - then the special meeting is a result of deliberation toward a decision that's not at a public session.

It's like fruit of the poisoned tree. Decisions in such meetings are void.

The question was raised within a day of the request for a public meeting. That early warning saved the city the cost of a legal notice. If there were a way to rectify the error, then there would be time to do so - because the question was raised.

It's what we're supposed to do.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.