By Lucy Perry
Terre Haute Times
Many people will long remember what happened at last week's Vigo County Council meeting ---- and the memory will continue to sting for a while.
The message is loud and clear: People want transparency in their local government. Appointed and elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions and promote a sense of transparency in their respective departments. Community engagement is necessary. Also, news reporters need to pay close attention to events as they unfold and questionable actions come to light.
While emotions can get the best of people on community issues of this magnitude, Anderson's tantrum was captured on video, published and shared on social media.
The video has been met with a flurry of negative responses. Although my opinion as a reporter on what occurred at the end of Tuesday's two-and-a-half hour long council meeting really doesn't matter, as a resident, I can say that it is concerning. We've all witnessed rude or inconsiderate behavior from time to time, but the clash between Commissioner Judy Anderson and the audience over allegations of the commissioner's lack of transparency was extreme. It makes me remember the time Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Danny Tanoos was rude to me last year.
To review what happened last week, a conflict occurred after the County Council took action on the allocation of funds toward the design phase of a new $68 million jail without first allowing public input. Anderson appeared angry and condescending toward the audience as they continued questioning her about her availability, weekly morning meeting times and the lack of public information provided on the county website. Commissioner Brad Anderson also briefly responded to the audience, but slyly backed away from the spotlight, as the argument became more heated.
It was standing room only as the meeting came to a vote on the appropriation, with many issues remaining unsettled. Several audience members had come to voice their concerns and hoped the commissioners' request for $3 million would not be approved that night. The audience was outraged upon learning from Council President Bill Thomas that the dozen or so people wanting to speak would have to hold their comment until after the vote. The measure ultimately passed 4-3, without public input. Late into the lengthy meeting, several audience members complained to Anderson that they felt the commissioners have not been accessable to the public regarding jail plans, noting no alternative choices have been presented..
While the arguments took place, I was sitting there, in the heart of the audience --- taking it all in and trying to grasp all sides of the discussion. I was thinking of when I had previously emailed the commissioners after I first started the Indiana Central News website. I asked many of the same questions at the time. I recall a secretary for the commissioners responded to the email I had sent with information about the meeting times, but she stated that agendas were not provided prior to meetings.
The County Commissioners morning meeting times weren't my concern two years ago, but not posting information online was troubling to me. I decided back then that I'd just deal with it later on, as I had many other pressing topics to tackle. I initially wanted to cover it all; although it's just not possible, time-wise. I had plenty on my plate to cover with police and city and county councils,etc.
I tried to follow up with Anderson by email Friday, asking her to comment on the meeting. She has not responded.
Lucy Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Journalist, Terre Haute
Lucy Perry, 47, enjoys writing about issues in her hometown. She periodically expresses personal opinions in her blog, Terre Haute Times.
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News Writer: Lucy Pery PHONE: 317-527-4141