The South Central Indiana League of Women Voters has held two forums, one in Charlestown and one in New Albany. We consider both a huge success. The forum in Charlestown was attended only by Democratic candidates, though all were invited to attend. The focus of the forums is to offer the voters an opportunity to speak directly to the candidates through questions they submit to the League members at the beginning and during the forums.
While Charlestown candidates only heard from one group, the 75 or so who attended the forum were very happy and even asked if we would consider hosting another forum and inviting those who did not attend to that forum. I told them I would float the balloon and see if there was an interest, and so I will.
In New Albany we were thrilled. Over 20 candidates came, all three mayoral (Jeff Gahan, Democrat; Mark Seabrook, Republican; and Independent Dan Coffee), the at-large candidates, the clerk-treasurer candidates, and the council candidate showed out in force. One lone candidate bravely came on her own from Georgetown. It was a long night.
Over 120 people attended and everyone seemed very pleased. I learned a lesson, however. After a very long night and the last council presentation, I didn’t think it was fair to ask them questions that had been written for other candidates, so I asked for questions from the audience. That was a mistake on my part and I own that. The lone question was not one I would have asked because I asked the audience in the beginning to be fair, to ask questions without insult, and to address the platforms of those present. We strive for fairness in the League. Our goal is not to embarrass or to challenge, but to inform and to educate. So, I can assure you, that won’t happen again.
I hope everyone who is running and who has been invited to future events and forums takes notice of the New Albany forum. It was democracy at its finest. Citizens listening and engaging with those who want to serve them in a safe and civil forum. Good questions were asked and thoughtful answers were given. People seemed genuinely appreciative.
On Oct. 10 at Warder Park, we are inviting those running for office in Jeffersonville to be as brave and as respectful as those in New Albany were, show up, offer your platform, and we will listen. No one is there to challenge, no signs are allowed, and no questions that haven’t been submitted in writing to the League will be offered (it only takes once and I get it!). We will be cohosting with JNLA. Our emcee for the evening will be Deb Henderson. Our goal is simple, to improve voter participation through voter engagement. We looked at the different ways people have done this sort of thing in the past and then did a little homework. I remembered reading about Abraham Lincoln as a child and his stump speeches and how effective they were so, we talked about it and decided to modify his approach and bring it back to the people, hence the parks and neighborhoods.
Our country is at a crossroads and we need to look carefully at those we elect. We need to question them and remind them who they represent — we the people. It is an empty government without us and we need to remember that our money through taxation is what makes this country move.
Both they and we need to be reminded of a government that is created for the people, by the people, and with the people. We in this country are never separated from our government because we are the government. We elect people to serve us, the fact that many have forgotten that both in the government and in the citizenry is on us. We have failed to remind them who we are when we have failed to vote. It has cost us much. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to now, without mega millions of dollars you don’t have a chance of getting elected unless like Abraham Lincoln, you roll your sleeves up, travel from town to town, gather people at the local park, church, neighborhood association, or street corner and give up your position.
Some will say that is pie in the sky, not attainable anymore. I think it is. I think there are enough of us out here who want a fair-minded government that truly represents the people. I think enough of us miss the Richard Lugar’s and the Lee Hamilton’s and the way they did business so that given candidates of their caliber we will step out and help. I think we can still send Mr. Smith to Washington.
— Reach Barbara Anderson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.