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League of Women Voters seeks Clayton foothold

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The state executive director of the League of Women Voters, a national civic-literacy organization, spoke in Riverdale in the first of three meetings intended to engage people in local issues, inform them of resources, and generate support for establishing a local chapter.

A handful of individuals gathered at the Riverdale Branch Library for the meeting on Tuesday night. Polly McKinney, Georgia executive director, said the organization first became involved in the county by hosting political forums during the 2008 election. She said it is now focused on continuing to keep locals engaged with the county.

"There are a lot of issues here that have to do with governance," said McKinney. "The school accreditation issue has been very problematic for many, many families here. There are issues with transportation, and with the health industry. What people don't know how to do is get from where they are feeling, into action.

"When people run into walls like that, we sort of translate government for people," she said. "What we will do is help them know who to call. We're not going to advocate any particular stance, but we are going to give people the tools they need to be civicly engaged."

During the meeting, the group discussed the pros and cons of school vouchers, how Clayton County stands to benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and how to approach issues in the school system. The group also discussed new programs, such as the Summer Jobs Program, a program financed through the Workforce Investment Act, which offers summer jobs for youths.

"A lot of it is exposure to resources," said McKinney. "There are a lot of great organizations already working in Clayton County that many people don't know exist. We can introduce them to potential legislation that may be able to improve their situation. We'll also introduce them to what laws are in place that may not be being followed."

Melody Totten, president of the Lovejoy High School Parent Teacher Student Association, attended the meeting on Tuesday. She said she believes the organization can help Clayton residents to "stay ahead of things," and avoid "crisis reactions" to political situations.

"A lot of people need to know about what's going on," Totten said. "The homeowners associations address the hot topics. They [the League of Women Voters of Georgia] are addressing all the issues. This is a great organization for keeping people informed."

Lovejoy Post 3 Councilwoman Rebekah Holland has been an active proponent of establishing a chapter of the League of Women Voters in Clayton County. She said she believes the organization will help citizens make more informed political and civic decisions.

"I think it's something we have needed for awhile," Holland said. "We get all hyped up about the elections, because it is out in the forefront, but when the election is over, we become disengaged. The League of Women Voters allows us to be engaged throughout the entire time. I hope that when they have a meeting, they [residents] will be inspired to attend because it will be information that is worth their while."

The League of Women Voters of Georgia will meet on Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m., to noon, at the Clayton State University Ballroom, and on Tuesday, March 31, from 6 p.m., to 8 p.m., at the Lovejoy Community Center, located at 11622 Hastings Bridge Road in Hampton.

For more information, call (678) 547-0755, or visit www.lwvga.org.