Making Democracy Work

VOTER-December-2010

Annual LWVO Holiday Party

Celebrate with Fellow League Members and Friends

A special League of Women Voters gathering--no agenda, no consensus questions, just good company, good conversation and good food

Bring your partners, spouses and friends, and a finger food (hors d'oeuvres or dessert) to share--or just bring your appetite!

Friday, December 10 from 6 to 8 PM
At the home of Bonnie and Earl Hamlin

5818 Ivanhoe Road, Oakland 94618

Call the League office 834-7640 if you'd like a ride

Co-President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy
Oakland has just experienced its first Ranked-Choice Voting election. The sky did not fall, the voters rose to the occasion, and the bloggers and others will argue over the meaning of it all for who knows how long to come. To put it in context, here are some statistics gathered from the Registrar of Voters (ROV) by FairVote.org, which has been working with LWV on campaign finance reform.

Most notably, compared to the last mayoral election in 2006, approximately 35,000 more Oaklanders voted. There are several likely causes for this 42% increase, unrelated to Ranked-Choice Voting: many new voters registered in 2008 to participate in the presidential election; there were ten very different candidates, which may have aroused more intense and widespread interest than usual; and the dire state of city finances may have created a "crisis" atmosphere that led people to conclude that their vote was important. All of these are music to a Leaguer's ears, indicating that Oakland citizens wanted to be part of this process. But it also demonstrated that voters were not turned-off or intimidated by the concept of Ranked-Choice Voting. In addition, they did not seem to be confused by RCV: only about 2% chose not to select anyone for mayor (far fewer than in 2006), and well under 10% put the same name in more than one position. About 71% voted for three different candidates, one in each position, and the remaining voters chose to rank only two or only one candidate.

Now for the anecdotal evidence: pollworkers in general reported very few questions or concerns about RCV, and the RCV specialists assigned to each polling place by the ROV had nothing to do. At my own polling place, a few voters told me they had deliberately voted for only the first rank, or had deliberately selected the same person for more than one rank, because they just didn't like anyone else: they understood that they were "throwing away" their second and third place votes. The large and varied array of candidates and the excitement generated by so many candidate forums around the city may be partly due to one benefit for candidates of the RCV system: the savings in money, effort, and organization from running in one election only, rather than a first round and a run-off.

So was RCV a triumph for popular democracy in Oakland? Maybe that is going too far, but it did fulfill three expectations: first, it cost the city less money since we didn't have to pay for a June election; second, it did seem to result in more and broader participation (although that will require further detailed analysis); finally, it required candidates to work for not only a strong core of support but also for broad approval or at least acceptance across Oakland's many political constituencies. It will be fascinating to see how this first experience with RCV will affect voter and candidate behavior in the future.

Leagues Across the Country Speak Out Against Secret Money in Politics

LWVUS continues to fight for transparency in political fundraising and specifically for passage of the DISCLOSE Act, which came within one vote of passage in the Congress before the last recess. National League asked all local Leagues to submit the following letter to our newspapers and other media for publication. LWVO is sending it to the Oakland Tribune, the Montclarion, and other local outlets.

To the Editor:
The impact of election 2010 goes far deeper than which party controls the House or the Senate. The incivility and tone of the 2010 campaign reached a disturbingly new low in American politics. Not only was this evident in the advertising, but we also saw it in candidate debates and forums and in the public discourse. Voters were overwhelmed by millions of dollars in negative ads but didn't know who paid for many of them.

This election demonstrated the critical need to improve our governmental structures. Because of the failure of Congress to act, there are no disclosure requirements governing the huge amounts of money that the Supreme Court recently turned loose in American politics. Voters don't know if their elected officials are in Washington to serve the public interest or the special interests. Congress must pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would restore transparency to U.S. elections by requiring disclosure of corporate and union spending in candidate elections.

Voters, not money, should be at the center of our democracy. The challenges we face together in our towns and in our nation will require our continued vigilance. As leaders of the League of Women Voters of Oakland, we work year-round to safeguard democracy and improve civility at all levels of government. As the League's work continues, we invite others in the community to commit to civic improvement by joining the League. Together we can keep our community strong, healthy, and vibrant.

Sincerely,

Katherine Gavzy and Suzanne Loosen
Co-Presidents
League of Women Voters of Oakland

Introducing This Year's New Board Members

In June LWVO members elected four new members to the board. In October the board appointed one new member to fill the position of Action Committee Chair. Here are short descriptions of three of these five new board members. Our Treasurer, Debbie Mills, and Kathleen Cha, who coordinated the production of the Oakland Easy Voter Guide, will be profiled next month.

Louise Rothman-Riemer
Louise is a long time Oakland resident. With her husband, Davis Riemer, she owns DHR Investment Counsel, located on College Avenue. Dave and Louise have three adult children: their daughter, Gwynne, who works with them at DHR; a son, Hans, who was just elected to the Montgomery County, Maryland, County Council; and another son, Neal, who just finished four and half years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Louise has served on both the local (Paul Robeson) Chapter Board for the ACLU and on the Affiliate Board in San Francisco. She also sits on the Rockridge District Association Board and has been actively working to make College Avenue a great place for everyone. Louise loves reading, travel, spending time with her four grandsons and helping to grow the DHR money art collection.

Echa Schneider
Echa Schneider joined the LWVO Board last summer. Raised in Texas and Louisiana, Echa moved to the West Coast in 1997, and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Classics from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she concentrated in ancient Greek history. After moving to Oakland in 2002, she spent several years as a chef in Oakland and San Francisco. She currently works at the Oakland Public Library and as a freelance web designer.

Echa maintains the popular blog A Better Oakland (http://www.abetteroakland.com), focused on local politics and government issues. Her unique blend of policy analysis, strong voice, and wit has earned accolades from a number of media outlets, including Oakland Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, Daily Kos, Gawker, PBS Engage, and the New York Times Opinionator. Her site was voted best local blog by East Bay Express readers in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Echa joined the League of Women Voters of Oakland in 2009 because she admired the work the League does to inform voters, increase civic engagement, and advocate for transparency in local government. When not attending public meetings or writing about the City, she enjoys hiking in the East Bay's wonderful regional parks, playing pinball, and cooking. She lives in downtown Oakland.

Marion Taylor
Marion Taylor was recently appointed to the board as Action Chair. She was a librarian at UC Santa Cruz for 25 years and moved back to the Bay Area in 2005. She served on the LWV Oakland Board as Action Chair from 2006 to 2008 and continued as a committee member. In Santa Cruz she was League president, Voter editor, and Action Chair. She served on the LWV California Board from 2000 to 2004 and is currently president of LWV Bay Area, showing how hard it is to retire from being a volunteer.

She plays viola in amateur chamber music groups, is music librarian for the Chamber Musicians of Northern California which puts on local chamber music weekend workshops, and attends an annual January European music week--the next one is Mozart in Salzburg.

More on Ranked Choice Voting

Redistricting at the Local Level

On November 2 California voters re-affirmed their desire that an independent citizens commission, not the legislators, be responsible for redistricting. Voters approved Prop. 20 which requires that the California Citizens Redistricting Commission draw district lines for the California seats in the House of Representatives as well as in the State Assembly and State Senate. Voters defeated Prop. 27 which would have abolished the Commission.

In Oakland, as in other cities, the City Council will draw the district lines for council/school board districts. The League plans to be active in monitoring the process, hoping that it will be more open and public than in the past. On November 9, we sent a letter to the City Council stating:

California voters in 2008 passed a landmark redistricting reform measure, and the state's voters just overwhelmingly validated it on November 2nd. Now the City of Oakland is required to use the 2010 census results as a basis for reviewing and updating City Council district lines. We in the League of Women Voters are looking forward to working with you and with the Oakland community to ensure an open and transparent redistricting process.

The next step is to meet with council members and neighborhood associations to plan a monitoring campaign. At our January 24 Hot Topics meeting League members will describe what we have done so far and lead a discussion about how the process is expected to work and what future actions we might take.

--Marion Taylor, LWVO Action Chair

Hot Topics:

Nonpartisan and Political:

The League in Action

When the League of Women Voters speaks, people listen. After the election the League will continue to address issues that affect all levels of government. How does the League decide when to become involved?

Come hear how the League chooses, examines, and acts on issues that matter to our communities. Members: If possible, please bring your pink LWVO Handbook and Roster with you.

Monday, December 6 - 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Redwood Heights Community Center
3883 Aliso Avenue

(Off Redwood Road below Highway 13)

All are welcome; bring a friend!

Bay Area League Day

Save the Date!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

League of Women Voters Bay Area presents Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Taking it to the Next Level featuring a keynote address by Dan Reicher, Director of Energy and Climate Initiatives at Google and three panels of regional and state experts on what government is doing, what science is doing and what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce, reuse, recycle.

Event will be held from 9 am to 2 pm at MetroCenter, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland, 94607. In advance: $30 ($20 without lunch); at the door $35 ($25 without lunch). To register please write a check payable to "LWVBA" and mail with your name and any guest names to 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94612. Registration is also available online through January 20 via PayPal at http://www.lwvbayarea.org. For more details, call (510) 839-1608 or send an email to editor@bayareamonitor.org.

Civic Education Isn't Just for Election Time

LWVO is developing a series of community forums and presentations on the Oakland city budget, the state budget, tax policies, and other related issues.

You can be part of this important effort--and help ensure we reach as many people in as many areas of Oakland as possible--by becoming a presenter and/or discussion leader. We will compile resources and provide training.

If you are appalled by the current state of political discussion, here's a way you can help improve it. If you can make some time please contact the LWVO office (834-7640, info@lwvoakland.org) to volunteer.

Observer Corps To Become Active Again

The LWVO is delighted to report that this winter we are going to restart our Observer Corps, which has been largely dormant for the past few years. League Observers play a critical role in ensuring the health of our democracy, creating a cadre of watchdogs who monitor government bodies for compliance with State and local open government laws.

We are actively recruiting members to become part of the Observer Corps. As an Observer, you will attend public meetings, wearing a LWV pin to identify yourself, and then report back to the League about what happens at that meetings by filling out a brief form. Observers are there not to act on issues discussed at meetings but, rather, to gather information.

Serving as a League Observer does not require a large time commitment but is a very important role. Simply through their presence, Observers encourage better, more transparent government decision making by letting elected and appointed officials know that someone is watching them. Additionally, if Observers witness discussion on an issue of interest to the League, they can notify the League's Action Committee so that we can continue to monitor the item and perhaps take action on it. Observing meetings is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the issues facing your community and what your government is doing about them.

There are a number of governmental meetings available to observe. If you have a flexible schedule during the day, the League would especially like to find observers to monitor the City Council's Rules Committee (Thursday mornings), Finance & Management Committee (Tuesday midday), Community & Economic Development Committee (Tuesday afternoon), and the Port of Oakland Board of Directors (Tuesday late afternoon). Evening meetings include City Council, Oakland Public Ethics Commission, Measure Y Oversight Committee, and the Oakland Planning Commission. If you are interested in becoming part of the Observer Corps please contact Echa Schneider at echaschneider@gmail.com or 510 847-6129.

Membership

Welcome New Members
Lynne A. Jones
Devon King

Changes to the Roster<br? Amy De Reyes
Jean Paulsen
Rebecca Saltzman

Full information is in the paper VOTER

League of Women Voters of California on Redistricting Reform

Proposition 27 Is Defeated
On November 2, California voters decisively rejected Proposition 27, the attempt to destroy the far-reaching redistricting reform passed by the voters in 2008. The League of Women Voters hails the election result. Californians understood that Proposition 27 was a politicians' scheme to seize power from the voters and avoid accountability.

Proposition 20, which adds congressional redistricting to the work of the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, also passed on November 2. While the League opposed Proposition 20 as premature, we reaffirm our commitment to doing our utmost to make the redistricting process--now including congressional districts--work well for the people of California.

The League remains committed to working with our partners in the government reform and voting rights communities to achieve the best possible implementation of the Citizens Redistricting Commission that Californians have so clearly stated they want.

Share This With a Friend Invite Them to Join Us

Membership in the League of Women Voters of Oakland is a bargain and a statement. A bargain because you will have access to valuable information and insights via the VOTER newsletters and LWV Web sites, through membership not only in LWVO but also in LWV Bay Area, LWV California and LWVUS, and via a variety of events and dialogues with key leaders throughout the year.

Your statement as a League member will be that you are committed to providing non-biased, well-researched information to voters, and that the issues your League follows are those that affect every area in Oakland: schools, public safety, local government, parks, our economy, and more.

Join the League, one of the nation's most trusted, nonpartisan grassroots organizations where "hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement."

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