Protecting Americans’ right to know is fundamental to the health of our democracy.
The League of Women Voters – a champion of government transparency since our founding in 1920. It is one of our fundamental principles and a vital part of our mission.
LWV’s Observer Corp Program has been around for decades. Experience has shown the importance of the League being present to observe—and to take action when necessary.
What is Going on in Jackson?
With the demise of local newspaper and other local media, the sources for information about local government action are very limited. The League’s Observer Corps seeks to bridge that gap.
LWVJA Observer Corps is working to:
- Strengthen our citizen right to know what our local governmental officials are working on
- Strengthen the transparency of local government bodies
- Improve the kind of decisions local government entities are making
- Educate Jackson about local government and how it works
Government Entities Currently Observed by LWVJA
- Jackson County Board of Commissioners
- Department on Aging Advisory Council
- Jackson District Library Board
- Jackson County ISD Board of Education
- Calhoun County Millage Allocation (Calhoun County)
- Summit Township
City of Jackson Entities
- Jackson City Council
- Racial Equity Commission
- Environmental Commission
Making a Difference – LWVJA Observer Corps
Our Observer Corps members attend local governmental meetings to observe, summarize, and report back to the League. We do not participate or offer opinions during the meetings as our role is monitoring the issues being discussed as well as the process of the government entity.
League members choose an area of interest within local government that is related to one of the local, state or national League Positions. Positions for which we advocate cover areas related to Government, Environment and Social Policies. Our local Corps began in fall 2021 with members volunteering to observe City Council, a local Township Board, the Jackson District Library Board, the Advisory Council on Aging, and a local School Board. Other members are in the process of identifying which government entity they will observe.
The Observer Corps helps the League build relationships with local officials as well as local media. Reports of each observed meeting are submitted to the OC Committee which reviews them, adds them to our data bank, and may refer some issues to the Advocacy Committee to discuss implications and possible local League actions. LWVJA is guided by Observing Your Government in Action Handbook, a reference guide for local Leagues published by the LWV National Office.
LWVJA Observer Corps Goals:
- Create a civically engaged and empowered cadre of Citizen Observers
- Promote open, transparent and accountable government
- Connect Observers, LWVJA membership and Jackson citizens with our government
- Identify areas where action or improvement is needed
- Educate the public about issues impacting their communities and their lives
- Connect elected/appointed officials with their constituents
Jackson Local Government at Work
- Jackson County Government Meeting Info
- City of Jackson Meeting Info
- Townships in Jackson Co. Meeting Info
- School Boards in Jackson Co. Meeting Info
Sunshine – a League Priority
LWV has been an active champion of openness in government throughout its history and works hard to protect every citizen’s right to know what their government is doing.
So many decisions are made by a plethora of Government entities. These decisions impact our lives and are vital to our well-being. These kinds of decisions need to be made with public input and oversight. One important way to ensure that is to observe government meetings. LWVJA members attend local governmental meetings to learn what our government is doing and to monitor whether those meetings are conducted in an open and transparent way.
What is Sunshine in Government?
Background: In 1966, with the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the federal government defined what the public has a right to know, and how citizens can exercise that right to obtain government-held information. This was followed by passage of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 and the Sunshine Act of 1976, both of which focused on public access to government meetings.
Since then, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and some local governments passed similar laws. These laws are often known as “sunshine” laws or public access laws. “Sunshine” or openness in government refers to two distinct areas: access to public records and access to public meetings.
Sunshine in Michigan
In 1976, Michigan passed the Open Meetings Act (OMA) beginning a new era in governmental accountability with intent to enhance responsible government decision making. The law covers such areas as the public’s right to attend government meetings, parameters for decision making, open meetings vs closed sessions, agendas, minutes, and public notice for meetings. More details on the OMA can be found at the State of Michigan Department of Attorney General website.