Making copies affordable a great move

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Alabama’s open records law, as well as its open meetings law, is an effort to make elected officials and governmental bodies accountable to the public.

During its meeting Monday night, the Selma City Council showed its willingness to listen to

constituents, and made a decision based on what is truly best for the citizens.

We applaud councilmembers for their unanimous vote to decrease the cost of copies of city documents.

Prior to the vote, the cost of copies was $1.25 per page for the first 25 pages, and $1.75 for additional pages.

The price for a bound copy of Selma’s city budget was right at $150. That’s a lot of money for the average citizen of the Queen City.

Many council members seemed unaware of the extravagant price the city charged for a copy of public documents.

According to state law, government entities must make public documents available for public viewing. They must also provide copies at a reasonable cost, according to an attorney general’s opinion.

The almost $150 for a copy of the city’s budget was described by Dennis R. Bailey, the attorney who functions as general counsel for the Alabama Press Association, as “on the preposterous side of outrageous. Any charge in addition to actual cost is in violation of state laws.”

The council heard the complaints, took them under consideration and worked together to bring down the cost of public documents – at least for now.

Officials are still going to do an analysis on what it actually costs the city to make the copies, and determine if it’s financially sound to keep the price low.

But, the vote is a great step in the right direction toward making public officials accountable to the public.