Close your eyes and imagine that your right to free speech only applied to what was available when the First Amendment was passed. Instantly, your right to free speech by phone, Internet, and radio vanish, because none were available when the Constitution was penned. Now, imagine a right just as crucial had been left behind. Imagine that right was so important that the First Continental Congress passed it during their first session. Now wake-up, because that right is real and nearly lost. What’s being lost is your right to be notified of and comment on government proposals. Today, we present to you our solution, the next step in the long history of this fundamental right.
The story of Notice and Comment dates back to the days of Ancient Rome, when the Roman government would publish an “Acta Diurna” on a daily basis to provide public notice. “Wanted Posters” told citizens to beware of bandits, like the famous Robin Hood, and town criers read aloud the King’s Decree. Notice and Comment was then updated in 1665, with the publishing of the “Oxford Gazette” and the first newspaper notices. For those who could actually read, it was a big hit.
America’s founders thought Notice and Comment was so important they made it a cornerstone of our democracy and expanded it – guaranteeing that citizens must be notified and be given a chance to comment. As our country flourished, so too did our newspapers, thanks in no small part to the steady stream of taxpayer money that funded newspaper notices. Businesses followed the government’s lead and began publishing their own “notices” in the form of classified advertisements and we all grew together.
By 1946, however, changes were needed; the Great Depression and World War II had led to a huge federal bureaucracy, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, and the National Labor Relations Board, each capable of creating rules that had the force of law. To restore the balance of power between federal agencies and American citizens, Congress passed the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946. The Act expanded the rights of Americans once again, now guaranteeing that official citizen comments must be considered and not just heard. By 1984, all 50 states had followed suit and the current administrative system was born.
Today, however, we are faced with another crucial decision in the long history of Notice and Comment – continue using the antiquated system of newspaper notice and in-person comment, or embrace new technologies and usher in a new chapter in the Notice and Comment story. Businesses have already embraced the Internet (Craigslist anyone?), and it is time for our government to follow suit. We spent two years designing a communications utility that will allow governments to do just that, with our organized, highly searchable database of notices, press releases, and comments.
America, let’s realize that just as newsprint notices made town criers obsolete, the Internet has made newsprint notices obsolete. Let’s help local governments save half a BILLION dollars each year by not posting notices in the back pages of newspapers where nobody sees them. Let’s ask governments to accept online comments, instead of requiring concerned citizens to attend a meeting or write a letter. Let’s modernize this fundamental system.
Join today at NoticeandComment.com and help take back our fundamental right to Notice and Comment.
By: Jason Schwartz-Glassner,
CIO and Co-Founder, N&C, Inc.