City announcements in the paper are costing you money

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- Local governments spend your money on a lot of things. One of them is to let you know when and where they're holding meetings or public hearings. They run ads in the paper, but that doesn't reach as many as it used to.

In the age of the internet, cities throughout the state are struggling to let you know what's going on. Information about public hearings, new ordinances and special meetings.

KIMA asked some people where they'd go to find it.

"Probably the newspaper," said Allen Weston.

"I'd go online," said Andrea Brooks with a differing opinion.

That divide epitomizes the dilemma for local governments. By law, cities have to advertise public hearings, special meetings, and new ordinances in the newspaper. That's your money. Yakima thinks it costs too much for too little attention.

"Frankly, not a lot of community members pay much attention to the legal advertising," said Yakima City Spokesperson Randy Beehler. "That's absolutely true."

City clerks throughout the state have brought the issue to Olympia pushing lawmakers for more ways to get the word out than the local paper.

"Get this law modified so that it can provide, so that we can explore and utilize other options such as advertising online," Beehler said.

Last year, Yakima spent more than $22,000 on legal advertising. Ads for 2011 that included the city election rang up a tab that hit almost $35,000; all taxpayer dollars limited to the newspaper.

"I think it's a good thing that they advertise in the newspaper, but they should also advertise it online," Brooks said.

Yakima says having more options isn't necessarily about saving money. It's about making sure more the word gets out to as many people as possible.

Lobbying efforts to change the law have not gotten far in the legislature. City clerks say they will try again in January.