Column

Styf: Subscribing to the Northwest Herald and nwherald.com is a benefit to you

Crystal Lake's Barnes & Noble bookstore will in August before the building is re-opened as a Binny's Beverage Depot.
Crystal Lake's Barnes & Noble bookstore will in August before the building is re-opened as a Binny's Beverage Depot.

Where did you hear about Barnes & Noble closing and Binny’s taking its place? How about the errors on the McHenry County election results site after the election?

You might think that you heard about those things somewhere else, but the reality is that the root of the news of both came to you because of our reporting.

How about your school district’s most recent property tax levy?

Or the details of the finances of your local municipality?

How about the referendums that have and will appear on your ballots?

These are the things we do, the things only we do, our bread and butter.

And that’s why we’re happy that you’re subscribing to support that process. And, if you’re on the fence about renewing or starting up a subscription – either print or digital – this year, these are the things to consider.

Do you want people asking questions of lawmakers and officials throughout the county and bringing the answers back to you?

Or, do you want to rely on them doing the right things by themselves or the information you receive from partisan sources?

As I noted last year, a recent study in part authored by Paul Gao, an associate professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame, showed that local newspapers actually save you money. Because in places where the local newspapers have closed, the municipal bond ratings have significantly increased and led to a significant cost increase for residents.

“When local newspapers aren’t there to hold governments accountable, we see costs increase due to a lack of scrutiny over local deals,” Gao said in an item posted to Notre Dame’s site regarding the study. “With the loss of local news coverage also comes higher long-term borrowing costs for cities – more so than in neighboring counties.”

To us, that’s unsurprising. It’s simply what we do.

But it’s also important for the public to understand it.

This past week, village of Cary officials discussed adding a one-way Facebook page for either the village or police department to send out positive news about the village. That’s great and we encourage municipalities to be wholly transparent with the public.

But also remember this is the same group who took a vote – which they described as taking a “consensus” and not a vote – to keep private a roughly $5,000 investigation that clearly should have been a public record.

Our job is to make those things public.

Just like when we looked at the school superintendent pay throughout the county, and like we will as we collect all of the county’s teacher contracts and post them with a breakdown, as well.

It’s not an attack on superintendents or teachers, but it is important for you to know the details of those benefits that you are paying for it with your property tax dollars.

Without us collecting and compiling those, no one else would. You would have to either request them yourself individually from the districts or find them on the website of those who are transparent enough to post them for all to see.

So this year, as you’re considering expenses, know that we’re an important part of your life and we’re working for you. And, as always, if you think there’s something we should look into, drop us a line here or you can now send us encrypted information at nwherald.com/leak-to-us/.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com or 815-526-4630.

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