Listening Tour Helps Neighbors Discuss County's Path

Listening Tour Helps Neighbors Discuss County's Path
10/1/2009
Journal Review

The Waveland Fire Station was the site of the sixth and final “Listening Tour” sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County (LWVMC), the Soil and Water Conservation District Board, Friends of Sugar Creek, and Farm Bureau Incorporated.

The meetings brought neighbors together across the county during August and September to discuss two questions:
• What do you value so much about Montgomery County that you want to preserve for your children and grandchildren?
• What negative things could happen in Montgomery County that could be prevented?

The sponsoring organizations appreciate those who not only attended the meetings in their community, but attended other meetings as well, to share their perspectives. We listened and recorded what participants value. Participants agreed on some of the ideas, disagreed on some, and gained a deeper understanding of each other because they listened to what was said.

Participants value our small towns, festivals, the rural, agricultural character of the county with its slow pace; our natural resources such as parks and forested land, good air and water; our history, museums and libraries; our neighbors, volunteers, churches, and good schools; proximity to I-74 and I-65; volunteer fire departments; fiscally responsible county government; property rights and freedom from restrictions and regulations; the status quo.

Consistent across all meetings was appreciation for the voluntary groups that protect the environment and the county's strong 4-H program. We listened and recorded what might happen in the future that could be of concern or might be prevented: more restrictions, ordinances, planning and zoning, loss of freedom; state bureaucracy; pollution; inadequate sewage treatment; people moving in who don't share our values, illegal immigrants; more people, problems, traffic; demise of small towns; loss of productive farm land; empty commercial buildings; unplanned confined animal feeding operations; industries that use large quantities of water and pollute; a landfill; houses too close to gravel roads; natural resources destroyed; becoming an area like Tippecanoe County's 350S; unorganized sprawl, indiscriminate development; loss of our youth; “brain drain;” apathy, and lack of citizen involvement.

During the meetings, comments were made, or questions were posed, that did not directly relate to the topic questions. When this happened, the comments or questions were recorded, with the promise to participants that answers would be sought from a knowledgeable source.

Over the next few months, the LWVMC column will feature the questions and answers. Questions included those about planning and zoning, taxation, lack of development on the east side of Crawfordsville, what can be done about abandoned businesses, what is a county's obligation to designate a place for a landfill, what is the membership of the County Plan Commission, and why does the LWV encourage everyone to vote?

Most of all, the sponsoring organizations agree with the participant who said, “What we should value most about our county is that people who don't agree on a topic can discuss it in a courteous and civil way.”

Given an opportunity to listen, to discuss and to learn, the participants made the Listening Tour a success.

Future columns will explore the League's position on planning and zoning, summarize current county ordinances, and a pose a series of scenarios with possible county responses. When complete, the entire body of work will be reported to the county's elected officials.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to save democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the Web site: www.lwvmontco.org or voice mail 765 361-2136.