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Southern Pines, NC
Well done! It is great to see some progress towards addressing this county's water needs.
So, what about print? Editorials try to scare readers with the specter of being annexed or having a neighboring property rezoned without being protected by the publishing of an ad in a section of the paper (classified) that has diminished by 92% in revenues since 2000. Why are so many newspapers in trouble? They are losing ad revenue (now back to 1965 levels), especially on classified ads. Where did all the classified ads go? They went to the internet. Without the ad in the paper, how would someone know if their neighbor was trying to rezone their property? First, if your neighbor is in for a rezoning, the process also requires you be sent a letter of notice. The same goes for an annexation. Forgot to check the mail for weeks? Well, the Town also posts a sign on the property to be rezoned. It’s up for weeks, if not months, and gives notice of Planning Board and later Council meetings. Also, notices are posted in front of the main Town offices. Are they posted at the door of the newspaper?
Well, the argument may be “not everyone has the internet.” Well, not everyone reads the paper either. The truth is, a recent survey shows less than 25% of people in the U.S. read print newspapers and only 29% read them in any format. On the other hand, a 2010 study showed that 71% of U.S households had home internet access and another 10% have access somewhere outside the home. NC’s numbers are basically the same as the national numbers. So, if the goal is to make information available to be largest number of people, the internet would be the first place to go and print newspaper one of the last. Consider the cost of advertising in print newspapers and it seems NC local governments are spending millions of dollars to potentially reach 25% of the population. And that is only if 100% of newspaper readers actually read the legals, which we know is not the case.
Finally, as a Councilmember for the last ten years almost all of the questions I have ever received about items requiring public notice have come from people who first learned of the item in a news story, from receiving a direct letter, from seeing a posted sign, from hearing from a friend, and pretty much every other way that is NOT a legal ad in the paper. I can count on one hand the number of individuals I have heard from wanting to know more about the legal ad they saw in the paper, but I can count in the hundreds those people whose inquiries came from learning of an issue through other channels. Most come from news articles reporting on Town meetings and from people on the Town’s free e-mail list.
If newspapers are in the public service business, they can print the ads free like they do for “Lost and Found Pets.” Heck, if they don’t want the content to be “buried” way back in the classifieds, they can put them inside the front page where they usually put the “Contributed” articles proclaiming “Local Dentist Attends Teeth-Whitening Seminar."
It would be nice is all the editorial boards of all the newspapers saying the same thing as the Pilot would be a bit more honest with themselves.
Most editorials seem to use the term “bury” when describing how a local government would post legal notices on its website. They’ll also sometimes mention how newspaper websites get more traffic than local government websites.
Starting with the website argument, let’s compare the websites for the Pilot and the Town of Southern Pines. The Southern Pines Website www.southernpines.net has a prominent “Public Notices” tab on the front page. A visitor can click on that link and see a list of public notices. A second click will lead a reader to the text of the notice. On the Pilot, one first has to know that notices are under the “Classifieds” tab. Clicking on that tab take you to a page listing links for about 40 different classified sections, including “Legals.” Clicking on “Legals” takes one to several more pages of listing of legal ads- all with links taking the reader to the full text of the ad. At the time of this writing, most of the municipal notices are on the second page, so we’re looking at another click to find. The evidence here bears out that if anyone is “burying” legal notices, it is the Pilot, which files them two layers deeper on their website. It should also be noted that the Pilot’s website does not have the homepage link for Public Notices that would bring it in compliance with House Bill 723 being pushed hard by the NC Press Association.
As to website readership, I’ve seen editorials, such as the Charlotte Observer’s April 16th piece, comparing the number of visitors to their site to that of the Charlotte/Mecklenburg government site. First, does the study break down WHERE on the site readers are going? I would dare say that most visitors to the Pilot and other newspaper sites are there to read news stories and opinion pieces and not to look for public notices. On the other hand, it seems pretty obvious that most people going to a local government website are there to learn something about local government and not to see who won the football game or what the latest comment some anonymous visitor has on a story. Frankly, someone looking for government information is more likely to go to a government site first.
(continued in next post)
Town leadership has said that the Comprehensive Plan is "just a guide." The Pilot's editorial board also seems to advocate not following the will of the residents as reflected in the plan.
When you toss out the plan and refuse to listen to the will of the everyday people of Southern Pines, you end up making policy based on the will of the local "business elite" (Econ Development, Realtors, Chamber, etc.). The Pilot reporter rightly got quotes from the people/factions that actually do set the real policy around here.
I am not aware of any laws that have stopped crime, including voter fraud. Still, a determined fraudulent voter could get a fake ID, if they really want to steal their neighbor's vote.
Voter fraud at the polls is already almost nonexistent. Requiring something as simple as a piece of mail would make it even more rare. Certainly, forging any quantity of different power bills, etc in the names and addresses of registered voters who aren't going to actually vote and then getting it out to stand-ins seems very unlikely.
It just seems like there could be a balance here where much more effort would be required to commit fraud while keeping the burden of any new requirements from disproportionately affecting certain groups.
Regardless of whether or not there is specific intent, it is clear that picture voter ID would disproportionately affect certain segments of the population.
Still, it does not seem entirely unreasonable to require some level of proof of identity beyond being able to recite an address. It would seem that there may be some way of reducing the almost non-existent incidence of actual voter fraud without at the same time excluding those who have the legal right to vote.
While everyone may not have picture ID, pretty much everyone receives mail. Why not require a potential voter to at least bring in a bill with their name and registered address on it? If there is any fraud now, wouldn't a power bill, check stub, etc. be enough proof? Sure, someone could theoretically forge a power bill or check stub, but then ID's can be faked too, can't they? It's a crime to steal mail, so that just adds on to the obstacles and punishments to voter fraud.
(I see the photo has been fixed)
I remember our trip to the “Old Schoolhouse.” It was 4th grade at Southern Pines Middle and Ms. Jenkins was our teacher. In preparation for the trip, we learned about the time period and how schools were back then. We made lunch buckets out of those big cans from the cafeteria. There was also some effort to get us to dress in period-like clothing, but I can’t remember exactly how that turned out. We spent at least a few hours there. I remember walking through the woods to look at the old cabin and then actually having class in the white building.
I’m glad they still have field trips there.
"The old wooden schoolhouse sat next to the Moore County school system’s administrative offices on U.S. 15-501 in Carthage"
The white building pictured did not get torn down as the caption says. The building torn down was the old log cabin that was back in the woods and had a tarp over the roof for a long time.
The one in the picture is described in the article, "Only one of the once common one-room schoolhouses that dotted the countryside remains, a museum piece long ago moved to a spot on the grounds of the central offices of Moore County Schools."
Congrats to SOUTHERN PINES resident (despite what the paper says) Dr. Cummings!
I can't imagine anything but the back yard service at least being optional. It's on the Council agenda for Monday.
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Physical Address: 145 W. Pennsylvania Avenue, Southern Pines, NC Mailing Address: P.O. Box 58, Southern Pines, NC 28388 910-692-7271 Fax: 910-692-9382