In early February, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council welcomed a group of ten international visitors participating in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) for a project focusing on transparency in government. The visitors hailed from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.
Their program began at Pensacola City Hall where Councilman P.C. Wu welcomed them, spoke about transparency issues at the municipal level, and presented certificates of honorary citizenship. The visitors then spent time with Rick Outzen, publisher of The Independent News, who talked about his newspaper’s investigative reporting; and then the group met with Escambia County Assistant County Attorney Meredith Crawford who gave them insight into state and county-level transparency measures, including the Florida Sunshine Law.
The next day began at the Supervisor of Elections Office where David Stafford gave an enthusiastic overview of the local elections process and what checks and balances are in place to keep the voting process fair. The group participated in their own mock election using real ballots and a voting machine before heading to Manna Food Pantries where Warehouse and Pantry Supervisor Susan Johnson gave an overview of Manna’s programs before assigning them the task of sorting donated canned goods.
The visitors’ last meeting in Pensacola was with representatives of the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area. Janet deLorge, Mary Gutierrez, Rosemary Hayes-Thomas, Paula Montgomery, Charlyle Parrish, and Ellen Roston spoke on the ways the League advocates for more transparent government while encouraging citizens to participate fully in the democratic process.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks all who contributed their time to meeting with the visitors to share their experiences with governmental transparency.