Sunshine Week from March 12 to March 18 marks an annual nationwide discussion about access to public information and the important role that we – the public – have in keeping our communities healthy, vibrant and strong. The League of Women Voters joins other organizations in observing Sunshine Week and encouraging open government.
A delegation from LWV of Montgomery County attended a panel discussion Tuesday in Greencastle “Keeping the Door Open—Fighting for Public Transparency” co-sponsored by the LWV of Greencastle and the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media. Panelists included: Miranda Spivack-Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw, Luke Britt-Indiana’s Public Access counselor, Jaren Jernagan-Assistant Editor of the Banner Graphic and Tony Gargo-Director of The Media School at Indiana University and board member of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government.
The United States system of government is based on the premise that government is a creature of the people and is accountable to them. An open and accountable government is the cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant democracy. Since its founding, members of the League of Women Voters have been on the frontlines to promote governmental transparency at the local, state and national levels.
The League believes it is incredibly important for citizens to know more about their government. Since 1947, members of the LWV of Montgomery County have served as observers at many of the government boards, councils, and commissions in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County.
The LWV Observers listen and learn how these governmental boards functions and what issues they handle. The League seeks to assist its members and the public to become better educated about local issues. The Observers are the eyes and the ears of the League—a pipeline to what is being thought, said, and done in local government.
The LWV’s Observer Corps is a benefit not only for its members but also for the citizens as large, as well as for the governmental bodies observed. Often, the League observer is the only member of the public present at some board meetings; and by that presence, the board members know that citizens are interested and do care.
Observers note whether the open door policy is being followed. Is there an agenda and are minutes kept? Which board members are present and absent at each meeting? Is the media present and are reports made to the public? Are members of the public present? If so, are they given an opportunity to speak? Is there adequate seating for all who attend, and can the proceedings be heard by everyone? Is voting conducted properly?
The League is presently observing 21 local boards. At the county level, League members regularly observe the County Commissioners, County Council, Health Board, Housing Authority, Plan Commission, Convention & Visitors Commission and Sewer District Board. At the city level, the LWV observes the Common Council, Park and Recreation Board, Utility Service Board (CEL&P), and Crawfordsville Public Library. Leaguers also observe the three school boards and three township boards.
Current LWV Observers include: Bud Arnold, Mary Barnett, Patience Barnes, Karen Branch, Aus Brooks, Lucy Brooks, Angela Cooley, James D. Cherry, Mary Lou Dawald, Deanna Durrett, Bill Fell, Ruth Hallett, Cheryl Keim, Margy McCafferty, Karen Patton, Elaine Pickering, Lynn Robinson, Russell Ruby, Virginia Servies, Jim Spence, Marie Stocks, Pat Stull, and Janet Zachary. Some Leaguers observe more than one board.
In addition, 24 League members now serve as elected or appointed members on one or more of school, city, or county boards, councils and commissions. Many of these began as observers!
Tonight the current League Observers will present reports and updates to the League membership following the annual LWV Observer Corps Dinner which will be held at Masonic
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website: or send a message to LWV, P.O. Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.