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Making county government accessible: change we can believe in.

By Scott Tibbs, February 3, 2009

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Making county government accessible: change we can believe in.
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 04:09:08 -0800 (PST)
From: Scott Tibbs <tibbs1973@yahoo.com>
To: pstoffer@alumni.indiana.edu, ikiesling@co.monroe.in.us, mstoops@co.monroe.in.us


I have been concerned for several years now that county government's meeting times discourage public participation. I have expressed this concern to the Monroe County Council, that county budget hearings are not accessible to the public because they take place during the middle of the work day. While I am pleased that County Council meetings have been moved from 4:30 to 5:00, there is still room for improvement.

But it is not County Council meeting schedules that I am writing you about today. For many years, the County Commissioners have met at 9:00 a.m. on Friday mornings, a time when most people are at work and are unable to attend a government meeting. Many Monroe County residents who would otherwise attend your meetings and comment on legislation are discouraged from doing so by your meeting schedule, even when legislation the Commissioners consider will affect them directly.

We heard a lot about "change" in the last election. It is time for the County Commissioners to make a commitment to more open government that invites participation from as many in the community as possible. Moving the meeting times to allow public participation would be change we can believe in. There is no reason that the Commissioners cannot meet on a Thursday evening, for example, to vote on legislation and approve claims.

The best thing about local government is that it is close to the people. Our votes matter much more in races for city and county government than they do in races for state and federal government, especially when you get into district races for city and county council. The other great thing about local government is that it is easier for ordinary citizens to participate in discussions of public policy and attend meetings where legislation and budgets are being considered. We have many more opportunities to interact with city and county elected officials than we do with state or national officials.

I urge you to take the steps necessary to fulfill the potential that local government has to be truly accountable to the people who pay taxes to finance it. This obviously is not a partisan issue. County government meeting times have made Commissioner meetings inaccessible for many years, while the Commissioners were under the control of both political parties. But just because the meetings have taken place on Fridays at 9:00 a.m. for many years does not mean that needs to continue. Please show the people of Monroe County that you value our input and that you are committed to open government by moving your meeting times from Friday mornings to a more accessible time.

Thank you,
Scott Tibbs