The Anne Arundel (Maryland) County Council is considering legislation proposed by its Department of Public Works that would allow public notice for right-of-way purchases, road abandonment, and petitions to extend water and sewer services, to be published on its website. The bill would also eliminate the current requirement that department officials post a sign on the affected property or publish two notices in a local newspaper.
This is a minor local issue that normally wouldn’t merit the attention of a national audience.
But a statement made by the county’s public works director to the Capital Gazette caught our attention. It perfectly encapsulates the bureaucratic perspective on public notice.
Chris Phipps said his department proposed the measure “mainly just to make it more efficient for us.”
“It’s so much easier for staff to just enter information into a spreadsheet and it’s done, versus ordering a sign, posting the sign, taking pictures of the sign, etc.,” he told the newspaper. “Most people get most of their information online anyway.”
There you have it. Informing the public is secondary to the ease and efficiency with which government employees are able to perform their duties.
This is the mindset we’re up against.
Update, June 26: Anne Arundel County officials pulled this bill from consideration a week after it was first proposed, according to a report in the Capital Gazette.