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One Guy’s Opinion by Guy Thompson - The number at the end of this column

So, do you trust the government?

Judging from the news, protests, and even scientific polls – not really.

So, I find it interesting how little people seem to keep up on what their government is doing, especially locally.

Monday night was a rare occurrence – a packed room for a public hearing by a local government body. They were there to ask questions and make comments on proposed sewer service rates for the Shipshewana West project, one that has been in the works for nearly three years and has taken up a fair amount of space in our paper.

It was good to see that many people there to participate (I estimated over 120 people were on hand).

Wednesday evening is the LaGrange County Regional Utility District’s normal board meeting. I am writing this Wednesday morning, but feel I can accurately guess how many people will be there, not counting myself or the board or staff. I’m going with six. I’ll let you know at the end of this article how many did show up. And no, I’m not making any bets on this.

This isn’t about the utility district, though. It’s about knowing what your government is doing. I would also like to point out that government no longer works, in my opinion, how we think we remember being taught in school about how government works. This often comes as a rude shock to people who show up one time at a board meeting hoping to just walk in and get their way.

I don’t really fault the 120+ people who showed up for the rate hearing but have, with a few notable exceptions, never attended a regular board meeting. To be blunt – they aren’t really fun. Again, I’m not talking about just the utility district. Board meetings are, by their nature, not that exciting.

That’s not to say the people on the boards aren’t fun or interesting. In fact, most try to make up for the dry business with some humor.

But one to two hours in a single meeting can’t be anyone’s definition of a “good time.”

And that’s an average. Some are shorter. Some go way too long. Some are very efficient. Others ramble and seem to never make an actual point or accomplish anything.

But they have one thing in common – very few members of the public attend them. Unless, such as in the case of the recent rate hearing, there is a contentious topic before the board. Then they need to bring out extra chairs.

Am I proposing that you give up four to six hours a week (on average) going to every government board meeting you can, just to keep up on what your local government is doing? No. Unless you’ve really got nothing better to do.

 

Fortunately, you don’t have to. See, there are people already doing that for you. They go and sit through the meetings and then report back to you what happened. You see where this is going, right? Yep – reporters like me. There are a handful (four or five in our area, I think) that regularly go to various board meetings and report back on what happened.

Now, I’m biased when I say I think we cover more government boards than anyone else on a consistent basis. Each news outlet has its editorial focus, so it varies on what meetings we go to.

Here, though, is a list of local government bodies whose monthly (or more) meetings someone from our paper attends and that you can read about shortly after the meeting:

County Council

County Commissioners

County Plan Commission

County BZA

County Library Board

Regional Utility District

County Redevelopment Commission

Lakeland School Board

Westview School Board

Prairie Heights School Board

Town councils – LaGrange, Topeka, Shipshewana, Wolcottville (with varying consistency)

Where else will you be able to find out what is going on with all of these boards? And, I can guarantee you, you are affected to some extent by more than one of these boards. Some have taxing authority. Some can set policies. Others can regulate what you can and can’t do to various degrees.

Shouldn’t you be keeping an eye on this?

So please, feel free to attend the meetings vicariously through our articles here in the LaGrange Standard and LaGrange News. We will do our best to watch your government for you and let you know what they’re up to.

And now…the number you’ve all been waiting for…

The number of people who attended Wednesday’s meeting is (drum roll, please!): 7*

(*Includes one financial consultant, one engineer, one county commissioner, one person and spouse who asked to be on the agenda and two members of the public.)