Making Democracy Work

VOTER February 2012

An Update on the OUSD Strategic Plan:

The Public Education Committee and Program Committee Present:

The Promise and the Challenge

Tuesday February 21<br - 6-8 pm
Officer John Hege Hearing Room
Oakland City Hall

Program:

A Short Video presentation on the OUSD Strategic Plan: Thriving Students

Panel Presentation: Jody London, OUSD Board President
Katy Murphy, Oakland Tribune Ed Writer and Blogger
Chris Chatmon, OUSD African-American Male Task Force Chairman
Charles Wilson, Fred T Korematsu Elementary School Principal

Question and Answer Opportunities

President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy

February may be the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year like 2012, but judging from the contents of this VOTER issue we are cramming a lot of activity into those 29 days. I am struck by the variety of areas your League is involved in, touching on so many of the important realms of American life. When you look more closely you see that they have one thing in common : the belief that a democratic society will flourish when people value the community and the well-being of the entire community as well as the individual. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we recently celebrated, spoke of the "beloved community." We in League are working to achieve that beloved community through the institutions of political and civic life.

So, for example, on February 4th the Bay Area League Day will focus on housing: affordable and sustainable regional solutions and housing for the poor and homeless. Public Education will be the focus of two LWVO events: a presentation of the Oakland Unified School District strategic plan on February 21 and an informal discussion of the same topic at the February 27 Hot Topics meeting. Meanwhile, a committee of Alameda County League members has been reviewing (and critiquing) the Alameda County Transportation Commission's plans for managing and funding areawide public transportation. Health care will be the topic at our upcoming annual All-City Luncheon (see "Save the Date"); the featured speaker will talk about making it more accessible and more equitable through both local programs and the national Affordable Care Act. Keeping local government open, transparent, responsive and effective is the goal of our local Action Committee; through their work LWVO is a visible and respected part of Oakland's political life. Housing + education + transportation + health care + local government: if any of these are your personal passion and you would like to get involved, call or email the LWVO office and leave your name; we will put you in touch with the Leaguers working in that area.

Come to BAY AREA LEAGUE DAY!

Housing and the Bay Area's Future
Saturday, February 4, 9 am to 2 pm
First Unitarian Church of Oakland
685 14th Street at Clay
Oakland, CA 94612

DAVID ROSEN, a leading expert in the field of affordable housing, finance, policy, land use, lending and investment, and strategic planning will be the keynote speaker.

Three panels will look at the problems facing housing today including:
▪ implementation of SB 375
▪ sources and uses of public money
▪ difficulties of community support

In addition there will be panels of experts on ▪ meeting regional housing needs in light of the sustainable communities' strategy
▪ difficulties of financing affordable housing
▪ how to serve the hardest to house

There will be time for questions from the audience during each panel.

Cost: In advance: $30 ($15 without lunch); at the door $35 ($20 without lunch).

To register please write a check payable to "LWVBA" and mail, including your name and any guest names, to LWVBA, 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94612.
Registration is also available online through January 27 via PayPal at http://www.lwvbayarea.org.

For more details call (510) 839-1608 or send an email to editor@bayareamonitor.org.

LWVO Board Highlights.

A major topic of conversation at the Board meeting January 9th was the budget process in Oakland. The Action Committee plans to send a letter to the City Council and the mayor to seek ways in which Oakland's budget process can be timely, more open and more informative.

LWVO needs more observers to attend Council and Commission meetings. Just by being at these meetings, we send a message of the need for accountability and openness. If you are interested in becoming an observer of any city group, call the League office and leave a message.

In Memory of Sanjiv Handa

Anyone who attended an Oakland City Council meeting in the past several years is aware of Sanjiv Handa. Sanjiv was sometimes described as a gadfly. Whether gadfly, muckraker, or journalist, Sanjiv was at almost every City Council meeting for more than 20 years, and always had something to say. He died shortly before the end of the year.

Sanjiv is being remembered as an inveterate campaigner for open government and for keeping City Hall on its toes. For a good picture of a complex person, read Tammerlin Drummond's column in the Oakland Tribune.

The LWVO is proposing that, as a memorial to Sanjiv, we redouble our efforts to have observers at city meetings. Sanjiv won't be there, but we can be. Observing makes a statement that the community is watching the process of government. In particular, we'd like to have people watch City Council meetings, including the Council committees, as well as the Planning Commission and the Port Commission.

The League observer is the representative of the public at these meetings. A fuller description of the LWVO observer program can be found on our website.

The March Hot Topics meeting (March 26, 6 p.m.) will be devoted to observing: what it is, why it is important, and what to look for. Please join us, and invite your friends and neighbors to come.

--Helen Hutchison

NATIONAL LEAGUE IN ACTION:

FIGHT BACK AGAINST CITIZENS UNITED

In last month's VOTER we talked about LWVO joining with the City of Oakland in opposing Citizens United, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and other groups can donate unlimited money to political campaigns. Now we have word of action from the National League.

Local Leagues and members across the country have been encouraging the National League to make opposition to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and its impact on the political environment a top Advocacy priority.

The LWVUS has issued an Action Alert urging members and other concerned citizens to sign an online petition to urge President Obama to clean house at the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Find this on the LWVUS website,

Already in this important election year, new Super PACs are flooding elections with huge expenditures from million-dollar donors. Because they are supposedly "independent" from the candidates, and with new loopholes from the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts from corporations and individuals, and they can do so with limited disclosure.

While there are different avenues that can be taken to fight back against Citizens United and cut the influence of special interests, you can join us by taking the first step today by urging President Obama to appoint new commissioners to the FEC. Among other duties, the FEC can define what election efforts are "independent" from the candidates.

The FEC is supposed to be the agency that enforces campaign finance laws, but it is dysfunctional. Of the six commissioners at the agency, three of them staunchly refuse to enforce the law, and five of the six are serving despite expired terms. It is time to clean house. LWVUS has not at this time endorsed the movement for a constitutional amendment to overrule the Citizens United decision. League is focusing advocacy work on decreasing the harmful impact of the decision through fuller disclosure of campaign contributors (the DISCLOSE Act) and through real campaign finance reform. Getting President Obama to nominate new commissioners to do their duty and enforce campaign finance laws is a good place to start.

Come to a HOT TOPICS discussion

What's Happening for Education in Oakland?

The Oakland Unified School District has built a strategic plan to prepare students for college and careers. We will build on the panel discussion at the February 21 program meeting to explore what will be happening to implement that plan.

Monday, February 27
6:00 - 7:30 p.m
TransForm Conference Room

436 14th Street, Suite 600

The League of Women Voters of Oakland sponsors monthly HOT TOPICS roundtable discussions to inform members and the public, and to seek ways we can come together to address important issues facing our community.
For more information, go to the League website:

A Look inside the Action Committee

The Action Committee is one of the busiest committees within the LWVO. It takes the lead in the advocacy mission of the League, responding to issues and proposals that come before the City Council and the mayor's office as well as at city boards and commissions. Members gather information and analyze issues, then review League positions to determine if there is a basis on which LWVO can and should take action.

LWVO has had an impact on the lobbyist ordinance and on the city's records management. Believing that public records must be accessible to the public, the League worked with city officials to put in place a records manager to improve access to public records. As a demonstration of the visibility of the LWVO in Oakland affairs, when the executive director of Oakland's Public Ethics Commission resigned last year, LWVO president Katherine Gavzy was invited to serve on the panel interviewing candidates for the position. After several months, Kelly O'Haire was given the position. (Late news: Ms. O'Haire was among the over 2000 city employees receiving layoff notices.)

In the 2011 city election LWVO was neutral or had no position on the three measures on the ballot. As the 2012 elections develop, the committee will examine all the local measures and recommend positions and actions to the LWVO Board of Directors. In the meantime, the Action Committee is organizing efforts to make redistricting for the City Council and Board of Education, which will take place in 2013, an open process that includes citizen participation and time for public review of proposed district maps. Other ongoing topics for discussion--and action-- are lobbying rules, campaign finance, and Oakland's budget process.

In addition to studying and acting to influence local issues, the Action Committee holds monthly Hot Topics meetings for members and the general public. These are roundtable discussions of important issues with a knowledgeable resource person. See the announcement of this month's Hot Topics meeting above on this page.

If you would like to become involved with this dynamic committee, please call the chair, Mary Bergan, at 532-1856.

Why Is the DISCLOSE Act Important?

The California Disclose Act is a game-changing ballot measure that is presently active in the California Assembly. The Disclose Act would require that all political ads (on TV, radio, print, slate mailers, or websites) carry the actual names of the three largest funders of the ads. The names must appear for a long enough time and in big enough print so that the ordinary viewer can clearly see or hear them. The ads must also carry information directing voters to the Secretary of State's website and other locations for more information.

That means that instead of hearing "this ad was paid for by "Californians for a Brighter Tomorrow" we would hear "this ad was paid for by Chevron Corporation, Mercury Insurance and the Koch Brothers."

Why is this important?

First, we are all aware that the U.S. Supreme Court has given large corporations, unions and other organizations the right to contribute as much money as they want to political campaigns, since in the eyes of the Court money is speech and cannot be restricted. We are already seeing huge quantities of money pouring into our election campaigns and will see this trend grow. Over $235 million was spent on CA ballot measures in 2010, according to FollowtheMoney.org.

An example was Proposition 26 which passed after $18 million in ads appeared throughout California. Prop 26 prevented states and cities from raising fees on polluters. And who paid for those ads? Chevron Corporation, American Beverage and Philip Morris.

Recent Field polls show that 84% of the public favors the Disclose Act, including 86% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans and 88% of Independents.

The Disclose Act cannot prevent all this funding from being poured into our democratic processes but it can make us aware of the groups or individuals who are behind the ads we see and hear. That is very powerful information for us as voters to have. The Disclose Act is doable now and is sponsored by the LWV of California, Common Cause , CA Church Impact and many other organizations, many elected officials (including Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson and Nancy Skinner), and other sponsors and co-authors.

Shouldn't YOU be part of the support for this bill as well? You can do that by signing a petition in support of the DISCLOSE Act at CAClean.org, by donating to the campaign, by attending the campaign meetings the third Saturday of the month at 10 am at Piedmont Gardens, 110 41st St., or by attending the Oakland City Council meeting February 7 and speaking in favor of it when the Council considers endorsing the bill.

--Judy Cox

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."

Join here.

Membership

Changes to the Roster
New addresses:
Lisa Hire
Blair Miller

Correction to New Member Information
Trisha Gorman

The details are in your paper VOTER

Save the Date for the Luncheon

May 2

    LWVO All-City Luncheon    

Details to Follow

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