My Two Cents: Full printing of ordinances in city’s best interests

Lost in the Charter Review Committee’s recommendation last week that Tacoma retain its city manager-city council form of government was a comparatively little-noticed proposition that would allow for a summary of each new ordinance after passage to be published once in the official newspaper of the city, instead of the entire ordinance. From the city’s point of view, this is a way to save money on printing costs.

The official newspaper of the City of Tacoma is, of course, the Tacoma Daily Index, which specializes in publishing legal notices at reasonable rates. The economic self-interest of the paper aside, there are several reasons the city should continue to print passed ordinances in their entirety.

If the city were to publish only a summary of ordinances, it could give the appearance that the city is trying to slip something by the public. This could hardly be what the city wants in light of the Brame scandal, which included several accusations that city government withheld information from the public. In today’s litigious society, the city could be leaving itself open to possible lawsuits, something the city hardly needs at this point. The bottom line is the city should be doing all it can to foster the concept of an open government, not hindering it.

Currently, subscribers can have an entire ordinance delivered to their door via the Index. Under the proposed change, a citizen or other interested party would have to travel downtown to pick up a copy of a particular ordinance. Traveling to pick up an ordinance may simply be an inconvenience for some, but for senior citizens and the disabled it could be a legitimate hardship.

Also, an already overworked city staff will have to spend additional time making copies of the ordinances requested by those who come in.

The bottom line is this: Citizens of Tacoma have the right to convenient access to unabridged copies of city ordinances. While the city may save a relatively small amount of money by printing ordinance summaries in the Index, it might lose a little more of something it can ill afford to part with right now – the public’s trust.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author gets in his two cents worth, in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts. Publisher Ken Spurrell contributed to this column.