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  • Last modified 2225 days ago (Aug. 15, 2012)

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Surprise! There's more to online ordinances

For those keeping score at home, we are pleased to report that the City of Marion did, indeed, publish on its website the two ordinances it said it would last week.

One ordinance was publicly billed as “incorporating by reference the ‘Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities.” You might expect to find merely a recitation of that code. In fact, the online version contains much more than was stated in the published summary.

Although the published summary does not say so, the document found online also reaffirms a $100 fine for any unaccompanied minor without written permission on city streets between midnight and 5 a.m. It reaffirms the same hours for city parks, regulations regarding the parking of trains, the city’s ban on drinking beer and alcohol in outdoor public places, and the ban on shooting guns, including BB and paint guns and bows and arrows, except in a very elaborately described area. None of these is part of the code mentioned as being the sole purpose for the ordinance in its published summary.

The second ordinance, billed only as “regulating traffic within the corporate limits of the City of Marion, Kansas; incorporating by reference the ‘Standard Traffic Ordinance for Kansas Cities,’” also goes beyond its summary, continuing a city ban on so-called J-turns — U-turns made to park on the opposite side of the street.

Fees for court costs, legal continuances, bench warrants, and probation also are included, although these also were not mentioned in the published summary.

All this may sound like minor technical matters, but there appears to be nothing to prohibit the city from attaching any manner of only tangentially related regulations to what its published summary somewhat deceptively indicates is nothing more than a routine copying of statewide laws.

If the city had wanted to create a law requiring every motorist to put a Green Bay Packers bumper sticker on his or her car, it could have included this in the law without ever mentioning it in the summary. Details would have been visible only on a website, which most people would never bother to check — or couldn’t, because they don’t have Internet access.

This is so inconsistent with the idea of openness in local government as to be ridiculous. The city may have saved a little money by not publishing the full text of its ordinances, but at what cost?

A few years ago, huge banks wanted to save money by no longer publishing their balance sheets. They stopped, and soon afterward, we taxpayers started baling them out.

Keeping the public in the dark worked out great for the huge banks. We can hardly wait to see what it does for cities.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 15, 2012

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