The second in a series of four, free workshops will be held in Iowa tonight that aims to teach people how to become engaged as citizens in government. The 90-minute workshops are called, “The People Have the Power: Making a Difference in Your Community.”

Kathleen Richardson, with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, says the workshops offer Iowans the tools they need to take action. “The workshops are designed to provide some basic information for citizens who want to participate in their local government,” Richardson says.

“There will be a section on the Iowa Open Meetings Law, the Iowa Public Records Law and then a little bit about First Amendment rights.”

The workshops will walk Iowans through the proper ways to take part in local meetings, getting records and their rights to free speech, petition and assembly. Richardson says each participant will get a “toolkit for democracy” with a host of resource material.

“While the Freedom of Information organization has done a lot of training for government officials in this area, training for journalists, we had never really done any kind of programs for the general public,” Richardson says. “Certainly, if you want to be an engaged citizen in your community, it’s important to have this basic information on how to do it.” Most journalists are already familiar with these entitlements and procedures, but Richardson says it’s important for people to know their rights under the law to become empowered and to help make a difference.

“Journalists can’t do everything,” Richardson says. “We are lucky in Iowa to have some very knowledgeable journalists who do a good job of trying to let the public know what their government is doing but that doesn’t always replace having an educated citizenry.”

The workshops are all held at 7 P.M. Tonight’s meeting is in Storm Lake, with two more planned on September 18th in Iowa City and September 27th in Des Moines. The first workshop was held last week in Dubuque.