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LWVBC May 2023 Newsletter


The Brown County Voter

May 2023 

The League of Women Voters of Brown County is a nonpartisan political organization 

that encourages informed and active participation in government.

The League works to increase understanding of major public policy issues through education and advocacy. Membership is open to all regardless of gender.

We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.

Educate • Advocate • Empower • Reform

Just a Note

By Shari Frank, LWVBC President


Thanks to all the members and friends who joined us to celebrate our 2023 annual meeting, honoring over 50 years of community service for LWVBC.  And special thanks to Gary Huett, Brown County Council President, who joined us to speak about our county, current state of affairs, and future plans.  See the details in the following Annual Meeting Recap.



As citizens, and as League members, we share a love of land and community.In order to deepen our understanding of this place and strengthen our connection to our home and to each other,we want to open our eyes and our hearts to those who share a history here.

We acknowledge and honor the Indigenous communities of this place, the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee peoples, as past, present, and future residents and caretakers of this land.

We’ve developed a new tradition at our meetings – based on an old tradition.  We start with a Land Acknowledgement.  What, you might ask, IS a Land Acknowledgment?  It is a way to acknowledge the people who came before us in this community.  It is a way to recognize 
centuries of displacement and dispossession of native indigenous people.  It is a way to show respect and honor.  It expresses a hope for a better future as we work together as caretakers of this land and community.  It is a commitment to work for equity and sustainability.   

According to the Smithsonian Native Knowledge 360o, Land Acknowledgement is an age old native tradition that is now used by natives and non-natives as a show of respect.  We are happy to continue the tradition and work to increase its meaningfulness.  See more online:


Come see us at the Brown County Fair

The fair is early this year!  June 12-17th.  LWVBC will be there so please stop by our table to say hello from 6-9:30 pm Monday through Saturday.


LWVBC Annual Meeting Recap

People as Pollinators: Growing Community Awareness was the theme of this year’s Annual Meeting of the League of Women Voters of Brown County was held May 8 at The Seasons Conference Center.


LWVBC President Shari Frank welcomed all guests and members. League members were asked to introduce themselves. During the introductions, we were all pleased to welcome Clara Stanley as a new League member.

LWVBC Vice President Sunny Leerkamp gave a Land Acknowledgement statement, and then told attendees that our local League has chosen to place a focus this year on the importance of encouraging pollinators to 
thrive in our local community and nationwide. Ruth Reichmann, a founding member of our local League, was thanked by Sunny for encouraging the LWVBC to highlight the importance of pollinators this year. Sunny also thanked Debbie Kelley for her participation in this year’s Annual Meeting by providing native plant seeds for people to start their own pollinator habitat, and information on the importance of pollinators.
LWVBC is planning a Pollinator Community Conversation, scheduled for Saturday, July 22, at the exhibit hall of the 4-H Fairgrounds. Please see the article in this newsletter for more information.

A moving tribute to late League member Janet Kramer was written and presented by LWVBC Secretary Pam Raider.

LWVBC member Jan Swigert discussed this year’s Janet Kramer Essay Contest, emphasizing the middle school and high school essay prompts were voted on by the students themselves. Jan acknowledged two essay contest winners who attended the annual meeting: Aidan Schilling, the first place winner in the high school category and a senior; and Erin Murphy, the third place winner in the middle school category and a 6th grader. Jan also thanked the team of judges who took on the task of judging a total of 36 
essays – 29 middle school entries and 7 high school entries. Please see the article in this newsletter for more information about this year’s Essay Contest.

LWVBC Treasurer Laurie Teal gave a brief history of the League’s Dorothy Stewart Memorial Scholarship, and announced the 2023 scholarship winner, Hadley Gradolf. Hadley attended the annual meeting with her parents and came to the podium to share her plans for future studies and career goals.

Teal then introduced the keynote speaker Gary Huett, President of the Brown County Council. Huett provided attendees a state of the county. Huett said the Council is active this year with new people, and he is heading the effort to drive policies, processes and procedures to improve Council functions. Huett told attendees the Council is facing a deficit in the health care budget for the county and is looking closely at the budgets for all County departments and other sources to help offset the deficit. Huett also said the Council is working more closely with the County Commissioners in an effort to be more proactive and pre-define what these county officials think will happen in the future. 

Huett is leading the Council’s effort in 3-5 year and 20-year planning for the county, and in setting aside funds for future anticipated and non-anticipated needs. He mentioned the Brown County Music Center is beginning to show profits now that we are past the Covid pandemic. Huett told the group he is interested in developing the tax base to stimulate the economy for the county. However, this continues to be hampered by several factors: limited population; issues with infrastructure and housing; internet connectivity although the majority of the county is now wired. Huett said there are 500,000 people in the counties surrounding Brown County, and “we serve as their playground.” He is interested in marketing the uniqueness of Brown County without it becoming a “little Gatlinburg.”

Huett plans a closer look at all budget items to be sure they are still valid and plans development of a rainy day fund, all in an effort to save taxpayer dollars.

Huett then took questions from the audience. League member Laura Martin asked if government officials are taking steps to make our schools safer. Huett replied that all visitors to each school are buzzed in, and there is a security officer on duty.

League Board member Cathy Rountree asked if there is a timeline on the proposed Brown County sewer expansion project. Huett answered the project will probably begin in 2024. League member Rita Simon asked if there are plans to pursue Section 8 housing for Brown County. Huett replied he has not heard of this, but there are discussions underway to build apartments in the county. League member Bill Todd complimented the County Council for the PACEs funding initiative being implemented by Centerstone.

Amy Oliver, Rita Simon and Rebecka Nika  won the drawing to take home two common milkweed plants essential for monarch butterflies and a geranium.  

A business meeting then took place after a short break, with League members voting by way of a consent agenda to approve all proposed business items including the 2023-2024 Budget, current board members and the proposed Local Program for the coming year.  


From left: LWVBC President Shari Frank; LWVBC Vice President Sunny Leerkamp; LWVBC Secretary Pam Raider

From left: LWVBC member Jan Swigert; Dorothy Stewart Scholarship winner Hadley Gradolf; Brown County Council President Gary Huett.



Pollinator Community Conversation Set for July 22

Mark your calendars! The League of Women Voters of Brown County (LWVBC) is planning a Community Conversation on Pollinator Habitat. This event is open to the public and will be held Saturday, July 22, at the Exhibit Hall at the Brown County Fairgrounds from 12:30 – 3:30 pm.  

Our goal is to provide the community with education on pollinator habitat, including what it is, why it's important, native plants vs. invasive plants, and how everyone can make a difference. 

The planned schedule is:

  • 12:30-3:30 pm    Exhibitor tables with resources for the public and info for kids
  • 1:30-2:30 pm      Panel discussion with speakers on pollinators, native plants, invasive plants

There will be concurrent children's activities, so families are welcome to attend. More information, including panelists and exhibitors, will be posted soon on our website and in our June newsletter.



LWVBC at Work: Family Fun Festival

Submitted by Cathy Rountree, LWVBC Board Member
On April 25th, Shari Frank, Sunny Leerkamp and Cathy Rountree represented LWVBC at the Family Fun Festival. The Festival, sponsored by the Department of Child Services, brings together community groups that serve children and families in Brown County.

At our table we shared information about the Brown County League, voter registration and Vote 411.   We offered families copies of Brown County Connections Community Resource Guide (produced by the Democrat newspaper with League participation).  Both new and established residents appreciated the guide, with several people asking for extra copies.

For children, we held an election for favorite pets.  Those wanting to vote were provided a voter registration form and a ballot which allowed for several choices as well as a write-in option.   Each voter also received an “I voted” sticker, which was very popular. 

In the final tally, dogs placed first, cats second with creative write ins including turtle and dolphin.  Children could also choose printed copies of U.S. flags to color, crayons, and information about national symbols.

This was the second year that LWVBC has participated in the Family Fun Festival.  It was a good opportunity to meet our neighbors and to interact with other local service groups.



Notes from LWVBC DEI Meeting May 15

Submitted by Sunny Leerkamp, LWVBC Vice President and DEI Committee Chair

At the meeting of the DEI Committee on May 15th we were privileged to have a guest speaker, Anne Lehman of the Center for Community Justice in Elkhart, Indiana. Anne had agreed to speak with us on the topic of Restorative Justice (RJ) and how the concept has been implemented in Elkhart since the start of the Center in 1978. 

Anne explained that the idea began with a visionary Mennonite named Howard Zehr, who stated his vision as follows: “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” 

The concept of RJ actually originated hundreds of years ago with Indigenous peoples who historically used community circles to address offenses committed within their communities. Restorative Justice techniques were also implemented by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu in attempting to reconcile the harms caused by apartheid when it was abolished in South Africa in the 1990’s. 

The three “pillars” of the process include: 1) focusing on harm; 2) realizing that wrongs or harms result in obligations; and 3) RJ promotes engagement or participation. Anne compared our traditional justice system, which employs civil or criminal sanctions to address wrongs, to the restorative process. She pointed out that our courts are primarily involved in retributive justice as opposed to restorative justice. Instead of focusing on wrong-doers getting what they deserve, RJ focuses on righting relationships. The offender is directed to consider victim needs and his/her responsibility for repairing harm. 

As the Center in Elkhart has grown in its presence in the Elkhart community, so has the reach of its programs. They established the first Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in the country. This initiative has grown to include Community mediation and conflict resolution, restorative justice education, a victim impact panel and transitional recovery coaching for individuals leaving incarceration. The Center is funded through grants, contractual agreements, and donations. The role of the Center in the Community has been transformational, yet there remain very few comparable centers in Indiana or the U.S. 

During the conversation the usefulness of this process was discussed by the DEI Chair in a case she prosecuted in Bloomington, Indiana. By implementing restorative justice concepts in a volatile case involving aspects of racism, the parties and their attorneys were able to gain insight into their words and actions that may not have occurred in a criminal justice environment that is focused on guilty/not guilty end results. It’s hoped that the use of these constructive tools will grow in our communities and be seen as a way to bring people together in resolving conflict. 


May 2023 Diversity Calendar



During the month of May this year, there are several groups commemorated:

  • Mental Health Awareness Month:  Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the U.S. since 1949. Every year during the month of May, NAMI joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Together, we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness. 
  • Older Americans Month:  From the White House: “On this 60th anniversary of Older Americans Month, we honor our Nation’s senior citizens, whose lifetimes of hard work, devotion to family, and commitment to community have laid the foundation for the country we are today.  We have a rock-solid responsibility to ensure our Nation’s seniors can age with dignity and financial security.”
  • Jewish American Heritage Month: “The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society.”
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month:  “May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.”

May 5: Cinco de Mayo.  Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. The day, which falls on Friday, May 5 in 2023, is also known as Battle of Puebla Day. While it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.”

May 17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. This event, which aims to raise awareness for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals worldwide and incidents of LGBTQ+ rights violations. May 17 was chosen because it was the date that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases.”


“When it feels like change is not happening, or is moving in the wrong direction, I choose to see the change around me. The change that I have created in the world … I speak to mentees and those I have trained and inspired to do this work. I receive back some of what I give. This energizes me to keep pushing and creates an endless flow of energy between me and the work I care about.”

- Blair Peters, gender-affirming plastic surgeon at Oregon Health Science University and LGBTQ+ activist


2023 Janet Kramer Essay Contest Winners Announced


The League of Women Voters of Brown County held its third annual Essay Contest for middle school and high school students. Now named for League member and leader Janet Kramer, who passed away in 2022, the Essay Contest is offered to students as an opportunity to think about the issue of voting in our democracy, then through the process of writing an essay develop and explain a position on the topic.  

Middle school students wrote essays using the student-elected prompt “George Washington was right – political parties are bad for representative government.” Agree or disagree, and defend your argument with reference to American political history, and what we know about how political parties affect political outcomes. Middle school teacher Courtney Atak guided the essay writers in this year’s contest. 

Led by BCHS teacher Emily Lewellen, high school students chose the prompt “Voting should be made mandatory, like jury duty, so that every eligible person participates.”  Agree or disagree, and defend your argument with reference to American political history, what we know about who votes and why.

The result? A total of 36 student essays were submitted in this year’s essay contest: 29 from the Middle School and seven from the High School. 


A team of retired educators judged each essay using a pre-defined grading rubric, chose the following winners. Click on the titles to read the essays in their entirety.  

High School

Second Place:Meaningful Voters > Quantity of Votes by senior Londyn Koester

Third Place:YOU SHOULD VOTE! NOW!!by senior Zachary Reed

Middle School

First place: An untitled essay by eighth grader Logan Sallee

Second Place:  United We Stand by eighth grader Elayna Stanley

Third Place:  Political Parties - Why they are a Bad Idea by sixth grader Erin Murphy

LWVBC deeply thanks the teachers, administrators, judges, and students who helped make this year’s essay contest successful. And thank you to Leaguers Cathy Rountree, Jan Swigert, and Shari Frank for “steering the ship” from beginning to end for the essay contest.



Adaline Adams Essay Moves Her to National Competition

Brown County Middle School sixth grade student Adaline Adams recently reached out to LWVBC. Adaline wrote an essay about Madam C.J. Walker for the National History Day state-level competition and won! The theme for this year’s competition was “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.” As Adaline stated in her letter to LWVBC, “Students dug into digital archives, went to public libraries and museums, and analyzed primary and secondary sources. They then took this research and created an exhibit board, a documentary, a website, or wrote a historical paper.” The regional competition took place on March 4, where four students from the Brown County Middle School and three students from Brown County High School qualified to move up to state competition. Since Adaline won, she is eligible to compete at the national level.

Adaline will be traveling to Washington, D.C. for the national competition. The LWVBC Board voted to make a donation to help Adaline and her family defray travel and lodging expenses. Adaline’s coach is high school teacher Emily Lewellen; if you are interested in helping Adaline with a monetary gift, you can contact Mrs. Lewellen at


American Hospitals:  Healing A Broken System -  A Film Review

Submitted by LWVBC Secretary Pam Raider

Last month Shari Frank, Cathy Rountree and Pam Raider attended a showing of American Hospitals: Healing a Broken System. We learned of this film showing through our work on the LWVBC Health Committee.  Local leaders of Medicare for All Indiana, Dr. Rob Stone and Karen Green Stone (who is on our local health committee andare both members of LWV Bloomington-Monroe County) were asked by the producers to screen the film in Indiana.  The following is the blurb for this film:

American Hospitals is the fourth in a series of documentaries produced by the Unfinished Business Foundation, founded by Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries Inc., who took a deep dive into the economics of the U.S. health-care system after his company was hit year after year with double-digit health insurance rate increases. He saw the financial distress of his employees, even when insured under a supposed ”good health plan.” His decision as a businessman to make a series of films about this urgent topic and to raise public awareness stands unique in the American business landscape.

The production team did in-depth research and followed up with extensive interviews that included physicians, patients and many top experts in health care economics and policy. The film is a crash course on how we can get hospital spending under control while improving quality and fairness.

American Hospitals goes beyond the typical ideological battles in health care debates and focuses on examining what’s actually happening under the hood.Learn more about the project at

As you would suppose, most of the film recounted the history and subsequent horrors of hospital health care in America.  I learned many stunning facts; for instance, some hospital administrators must deal with over 3,000 insurance plans - which as you can imagine entail lots of paperwork and personnel to process - which of course increases the cost of doing business.

Speaking of business – this is becoming a huge problem not just for average people but for American businesses who see their health care costs rising and find it harder to compete.  In a recent survey, 87% of business CEO’s say that health care costs will be unsustainable in five years.  For the individual, many people’s affordable policies require $17,000 out of pocket in deductibles and then many procedures are not paid for.  Health care costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.  Of huge concern is lack of constraint on pricing.   Medicare pays one rate and private insurance another for the same procedure.  Most countries around the world have price controls on health care.  Of course, most countries around the world also have national health programs for their citizens and health costs do not cause bankruptcies.

The big money is made through private insurance which pays more than Medicare or Medicaid.  As a result, 30% of doctors do not accept Medicaid patients.  After WWII Congress passed the Hill/Burton Act which stated that hospitals accepting federal dollars must treat those who cannot pay.  And during this time some 6,800 hospitals were created and those serving the medically underserved were considered safety net hospitals, often funded by states or the federal government.  However, during the 1980’s deregulation of hospitals led to increasing prices and consolidations creating huge medical monopolies.  These mega medical corporate entities expand to areas where they can make the most money.  They build in wealthy suburban neighborhoods and close the financially strapped ones in poorer communities.  Hospital care has gone from a service driven public good to a multi-billion dollar profit driven business.  With ever increasing costs and more expensive equipment, the total hospital portion of the federal budget is now 18% compared to 3% for the military.  

Although hospitals are called not-for-profit, their profits are labeled as cash reserves.  For instance, IU Health has more money in reserve than the fiscally conservative state of Indiana.  What to do with the excess profits?  Well, they consolidate and build new hospitals.  And with each merger, prices increase and so does the incentive to overdo on testing for which hospitals are not held accountable.  Communities end up subsidizing not-for-profit hospitals since they are exempt from most federal, state and property taxes. 


And what has happened to those safety net hospitals?  They do not make enough money to meet their expenses, have poorly paid, overworked staff, and are often lacking in up-to-date equipment.  In short, they provide a lesser level of care.  (In one low-income hospital 41% of those admitted with COVID died.)  Finally, they end up closing their doors.  Since 2000, 130 hospitals have closed, 13 in Tennessee alone.  During 2019-2020, 66 hospitals closed, creating medical deserts in many areas of our country. In Indiana, 17 of the state’s 92 counties don’t have a single hospital while 50% have just one hospital. Patients are transported long distances when hospitals close. Timing is critical in an emergency. Whenever great sums of money are involved, you can imagine the disparities in health care outcomes.  In this country socio-economic level now determines who lives or dies in a medical crisis. 

Lest we go on and on about the horrors and injustice and immorality of this money hungry system – the film did have a partial solution – The Maryland System.  Apparently for the last 30 years, the state of Maryland has found a way to cap hospital spending which is acceptable to hospitals, doctors and insurance companies.  It isn’t a panacea but it is a start.  It doesn’t matter what procedure you are receiving: the price is the same whether you are on Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance.  Essentially there are no hidden costs, no incentive to order expensive unnecessary tests, no juggling thousands of health care plans for what they will pay or not pay.  


…Indiana hospital costs rank between the 4thand 7thhighest rates in the country – and the most expensive in the Midwest.St. Vincent/Ascension tops the list with $23 billion in profit reserves and yet closed its hospital in Bedford recently. IU Health ranks 2ndhighest in profit reservesin the state.

Though not in the film, the audience was treated to a picture of Indiana’s health report card by both Dr. Stone and Bloomington State Representative Matt Pierce.  According to Michael Hicks, Professor of Economics at Ball State University, Indiana hospital costs rank between the 4th and 7th highest rates in the country – and the most expensive in the Midwest.  St. Vincent/Ascension tops the list with $23 billion in profit reserves and yet closed its hospital in Bedford recently. IU Health ranks 2nd highest in profit reserves in the state.  

Rep. Pierce cited this anecdote about health care decisions at IU Hospital in Bloomington.  They decided to drop their Stroke Care Certification, leaving it to one of their hospitals in Indianapolis.  So, often a stroke victim in Bloomington must be helicoptered to the Indianapolis facility; however, since the helicopters are ported in Columbus, considerable time might be lost, which in a stroke event is critical.  They do, however, have a fabulous Osteo care unit since there is lots of money to be made in hip, knee, and shoulder replacements.  Also, the new Bloomington hospital has the same number of rooms as the old one, but since they are single occupancy – they halved their capacity – word has it that patients are being housed in the ER.  Perhaps they can charge more for these single rooms from insurance companies. 

Lest we lose all hope, there is currently a consortium of conservative business people, Hoosiers for Affordable Healthcare, concerned about health care costs, who have been lobbying at the Statehouse.  This may prompt change.  Hopefully, there will be a state-wide study commission this July to begin looking at what can be done to stem costs and no doubt the Maryland plan is high on the list for solutions.

At the upcoming LWVIN Convention in June, Dr. Rob Stone will be one of the featured speakers, no doubt addressing this and other health care concerns both in this state and in the nation.  Stay tuned.


Info Links of Interest


The Eagle Eye quarterly newsletter from Brown County Schools

Updates from LWVUS

LWVIN Newsletter

LWVB-MC Newsletter



Here’s How to Contact Your State and Federal Legislators


State Senator Eric Koch 



Legislative Assistant: Alexa Walden or 317-234-9425

Phone: 800-382-9467 or 317-232-9400
Address: Indiana State Senate, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis IN 46204 


State Representative District 62 Dave Hall


Email:  (press liaison)
Legislative Assistant: Drew Sellers 317-232-9863
Address: Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis IN 46204 


9th Congressional District U.S. Representative Erin Houchin 

Phone: 202-225-5315
Address: 1632 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515 


U.S. Senator Mike Braun 

Phone: 202-224-4814

Address: 374 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510 


U.S. Senator Todd Young 

Phone: 202-224-5623

Address: 185 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510 


Governor Eric Holcomb 


Phone: 317-232-4567
Address: Office of the Governor, Statehouse, Indianapolis IN 46204-2797 


Making Democracy Work

Grassroots Leadership since 1920


Educate • Advocate • Empower • Reform


We cordially invite you to join us.


We encourage you to learn more about the League by attending our meetings and other events, 

including legislator forums and Meet the Candidates. 

Membership is not required to attend these meetings and events.


Annual Membership Dues*:


$50/Individual         $85/Couple              $20/Friend of the League (non-voting)

Your dues include membership in the national, state, and local leagues.


*Membership Scholarships available. Email us for more information:


To join or to send a donation, mail your check payable to LWVBC, PO Box 74, Nashville IN 47448

Please include your name, address, phone, and email


Visit our






PLEASE NOTE:  Meetings may be in person and/or virtual.

See links below to check days/times.


Brown County Commissioners

Salmon Room (check website for zoom link)

• June 7, 2:00 pm(check for possible changes)

• June 21, 6:00 pm(check for possible changes)


Brown County Council

Salmon Room

• June 19, all day meeting(check for possible changes)


Brown County Health Board

Bi-monthly, third Tuesday, 5 pm

• July 20, 2023,5:00 pm(check for possible changes)


Nashville Town Council

Salmon Room (check website for zoom link)

• June 15, 6:30 pm(check for possible changes)

• July 20, 6:30 pm(check for possible changes)


Note: for all government and advisory board meetings and to verify times, please check the Brown County government calendar:,the Town of Nashville calendar:,or the Brown County





LWVBC meetings are held the 

second Monday of each month


Next Meeting: July 10, 7:00 (via Zoom)


League Members, Friends, 

and the public are welcome


To participate in the meeting, contact League President Shari Frankat

to receive the zoom link.


The deadline for submission of articles for the June newsletter is 5:00 pm Friday, June 16.


The Brown County VOTER is published monthly. The editor is Laurie Teal. Please send your articles and/or suggestions to LWVBC at