Making Democracy Work

VOTER February 2014

Hot Topics: Broadening Participation in City Government

Wednesday, February 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
475 14th Street, Downtown Oakland

[Error: Bad image reference 2014_feb_dsc.jpg] How much do you really know about the workings of Oakland city government? How can you and your neighbors be more active in shaping city policies and actions ahead of time, instead of reacting after local officials do something you don't like? Join us as we address these and other questions with the help of guest speakers Susan Stuart Clark of Common Knowledge (http://www.ckgroup.org) and Steve Spiker of Open Oakland (http://www.openoakland.org).

Here is some useful information to read beforehand:
How to Speak at City Council
How to Watch Oakland City Council
Oakland City Council Committees
Webmaster's Note: The links in these three documents must be copied into a browser. Sorry.

Action Committee Report

Work continues on a proposal to establish an independent citizens redistricting commission for Oakland. An early December brainstorming gave Action Committee members a good sense of the issues that need to be addressed; several ideas were discussed, but no definite proposals resulted at that time. It is crucial that Oakland residents have confidence in the independence and integrity of the commission and its processes.

We are part of a small group meeting with councilmembers Dan Kalb and Libby Schaaf, who are committed to bringing a proposed charter amendment before the City Council in time to qualify for the November ballot. An informal survey has been sent out to a broad email list to confirm support for an independent commission. LWVO members should have received it; if you haven't already done so, please take a few moments to take the survey and return it.

Please mark your calendar for March 12 for a community meeting to discuss the redistricting commission. During the redistricting process last fall, the Oakland Votes Coalition found that few people thought redistricting interesting enough to demand their attention. The March meeting will be designed to make it interesting.

The Public Ethics Commission has approved a letter of transmittal to the City Council with a recommended records management policy. There will be a sixty-day comment period before the policy can be sent to the Rules Committee. Look for a report on what the PEC is recommending in the next Voter.
- Mary Bergan

Hot Topics: Public Safety and Private Lives

To what extent should privacy protections limit gathering and storing data that might be useful in emergency situations or in reducing crime? A large and varied crowd attended the January 22 Hot Topics meeting to discuss these difficult and contentious issues. Allene Warren introduced the resource people, and Mary Bergan moderated the discussion. City officials who attended included Emergency Services and Homeland Security Director Rene Domingo, Interim Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa, Police Captain Darren Allison, and Information Systems Manager Ahsan Baig. A number of people identifying themselves as members of the Oakland Privacy Group attended; their spokesperson was Joshua Smith.

The primary focus of the meeting was the Maritime Domain Awareness Center (DAC), funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for the protection of the Port of Oakland. It is located within the Emergency Operations Center that was funded by Oakland's Measure I after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. According to Assistant Chief Figueroa and Captain Allison, only recently has the technology and information in DAC been considered as a resource for fighting crime. OPD has been studying how technology is being used by police departments across the country in hopes of lowering the current high rate of crime in Oakland. Privacy groups fear that the data collected from increased surveillance may be used in inappropriate ways. Questions were raised about data storage and security. Figueroa and Allison said that some data collected may be retained for up to five years. Memoranda of Understanding outline how and when data are shared with other agencies. City Council must approve additional technology such as facial recognition software and street cameras that provide information stored in DAC. Many audience members expressed concern that information would be used against those involved in political protests, while others viewed the center as being an important tool in the battle against the high rate of crime in the city.
- Sandy Venning, with photos by Peter Crigger [Error: Bad image reference 2014_feb_domingo.jpg] [Error: Bad image reference 2014_feb.jpg] [Error: Bad image reference 2014_feb_Baig.jpg] [Error: Bad image reference 2014_feb_bergan.jpg]

New Details Unveiled for All-City Luncheon

The theme of the April 29 All-City Luncheon is "Building Citizens for the Future." We are thrilled that Chief Justice of California Tani Gorre Cantil- Sakauye will join us in a conversation celebrating this theme, as she co-chairs the statewide task force on Civics Education in our schools. Chief Justice Cantil- Sakauye was appointed to the California Supreme Court by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Following her confirmation hearing and statewide election, she was sworn into office on January 3, 2011 as the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as Chief Justice of California. She chairs the Judicial Council of California, the administrative policymaking body of state courts, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye served for more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts before her appointment to the California Supreme Court. She received her B.A. with honors from U.C. Davis in 1980 and her J.D. from the U.C. Davis School of Law in 1984.

This year's Making Democracy Work awardees are also being honored for their work in Building Citizens for the Future.

Maryann Wolfe is a social science teacher at Oakland Tech High School. She has led a trip every other year to Washington, D.C. to engage her seniors with American government. Maryann is able to arrange this study tour through the Close Up Foundation, which provides students with the opportunity to study their government "close up," not out of a textbook. Students meet with government officials, particularly their congressperson or senators, lobbyists, newspeople, and with students from all over the country. Discussions, debates, and seminars are arranged by the Close Up staff, and the students are kept involved from 8:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night, each day for five days.

In 12th grade, students who are recommended may take the advanced senior block, taught by Wolfe and Marietta Joe, and consisting of AP Government, AP Literature, and HP Comparative Government, in which they analyze works of art and compare them to the government.

The Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL) is part of a nationwide movement that seeks to establish and maintain competitive debate teams in under-resourced public high schools.

The BAUDL has partnered with school districts in San Francisco and Oakland so that the young people of the Bay Area can participate in rigorous, exciting competition and become articulate and informed leaders in their schools and communities. With the help of dozens of volunteers and sponsors, the league helps students from all backgrounds and all levels of academic achievement develop into trained, powerful advocates and skilled critical thinkers, ready to graduate from high school and college and take on the world.

The BAUDL identifies two teachers at each partner school and trains them to be successful debate coaches, enabling them to recruit and maintain strong teams. A volunteer mentor trained by league staff aids in each team's development. BAUDL programming includes:

  • Monthly weekend workshops where students work with coaches and mentors to hone their skills;
  • A 5-day Summer Institute for students and teachers to practice and prepare for next year's season;
  • Community-building events such as public debates and neighborhood fun nights;
  • Professional Development Seminars to help teachers become successful coaches and integrate debate into their everyday classroom practice.

Stay tuned for future udpates about the All-City Luncheon.
- Katherine Gavzy

Each One Bring One Campaign Continues

Leaguers, we need your help!

We want to grow our League so that we can become even more effective. This is an election year, which makes it a year in which the League is especially valuable to our community. So this is the perfect time to ask a friend or colleague to join. It's easy. The fastest way is to go online to http://www.lwvoakland.org and fill out the application. Payment of our $65 annual dues may be made with a credit card or PayPal. Of course you can also call the League office at (510) 834-7640 and ask for an application, or use the form on page 7 of this edition of the Voter.

The Membership Committee is continuing to promote our membership campaign "Grow the League: Each One Bring One." Bring a friend to a Hot Topics or monthly program event or share your issue of the Voter with them, and ask them to join. We have an assistance program for those who may need help paying the annual $65 dues.

If you care about the League and about Oakland, and you want both to be more effective, ask a friend or colleague to join and do it today. We will look forward to seeing you and your friend at the next League event.
- Louise Rothman-Reimer

The Future of California Elections

The Future of California Elections (FOCE) is a collaboration between election officials, civil rights organizations, and election reform advocates to examine and address the unique challenges facing the state of California's election system. The president of LWVC is a member, and in addition, LWVC has a grant to study best practices in voter guides in order to give the Secretary of State's office ideas about how to improve their information to voters. To that end, LWVO has shared our local Easy Voter Guide. To find out about FOCE, visit http://www.futureofcaelections.org.

League Usage of Your Contact Information

We are soon going to be printing an updated 2014 Member Roster/Handbook. As with every updated version, the Member Roster/Handbook will then be mailed to each LWVO member household.

We would like you to please tell us if you would prefer NOT to have some of your contact information listed in the Member Roster/ Handbook.

The Member Roster/Handbook is not currently posted on the League's website, but we may post it in the future on a members only section of our website. If we did, access to it would be password protected.

In the printed version of our Voter, we currently list contact information for new members and changes of contact information for current members. We do not include these updates in the online version of the Voter.

If you have concerns about the League's use of your contact information, please let us know of your concerns and how you would like us to respond. Either send your request to the League office (1305 Franklin Street, Suite 311, Oakland, CA 94612- 3222), e-mail us at league@lwvoakland.org, or call the office at (510) 834-7640 and leave a message.

Thanks from the Membership Committee.
- Bonnie Hamlin

Black Carbon: Particulate Matter's Darkest Side

Note: This article was originally published in the February/March 2014 edition of the Bay Area Monitor, a publication of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area Education Fund based here in Oakland. For more details and to sign up for a free subscription, visit http://www.bayareamonitor.org or call (510) 839-1608.

As names go, "black carbon" may sound like a sleek new product in design technology -- a composite for an unbreakable set of skis, maybe, or an ultramodern material for a lightweight car -- but the reality is far more worrisome. An especially baleful type of particulate matter, black carbon is formed when fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass incompletely combust. Those dark aerosol clouds you see spewing from smokestacks or trucks and eventually strewn over snow or other places that used to be clean? That's black carbon. Many call it soot -- but that doesn't sound as sleek.

Recently, black carbon has been the focus of government efforts to determine the nature of its dangers for climate warming, human health, and our ecosystems. Recent reports by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Advisory Council both found that black carbon is, in fact, a major culprit of the increasingly exigent climate and health problems in need of attention in years ahead. As policy makers the world over continue looking for the most efficient ways to resolve such concerns, the turn to black carbon suggests a growing consensus about at least one target worth addressing for the common good.

By mass, black carbon is the most strongly light-absorbing kind of particulate matter, so it makes the atmosphere retain heat that would otherwise be dispersed or reflected away. Also, when deposited on snow or ice, black carbon increases their light absorption as well by reducing the natural reflectivity
-- or "albedo" -- that makes snow and ice so essential to keeping the planet cool. And if that weren't bad enough, black carbon reduces the ability of clouds to absorb and reflect solar radiation. On the whole, its undeniable influence makes black carbon second only to carbon dioxide in its consequences for climate change.

Unlike carbon dioxide, however, which stays active in the atmosphere for anywhere between five years to two centuries, black carbon is considered a "short-lived climate pollutant," meaning it has an atmospheric lifetime ranging only from days to weeks. One implication of its short lifespan is that policies that reduce black carbon emissions will have a more immediately observable impact on global warming than policies directed more specifically toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions, though the latter have been a predominant focus of environmental policy to date given carbon dioxide's majority share of responsibility for a changing climate. Now, that trend might be shifting. Indeed, this past December the Air District's board of directors received strong advice from its Advisory Council to make short-lived climate pollutants, and black carbon in particular, the focus of its climate protection strategies going forward.

But protecting the climate is not the only reason to concentrate on black carbon. Black carbon also shows evidence of being dangerous for human health and ecosystems. Its long and short term health effects range from acute respiratory conditions, cardiovascular illness, and even premature death, to the visibility or dizziness problems known to anyone who has seen the hazy shroud of a polluted day. And, although black carbon has been linked to creating more fertile soil in some tropical regions, in other places it has been shown to reduce agricultural production and to damage the flora.

With biomass burning and transportation emissions serving as the world's primary sources of black carbon, our ecosystem and our public health here in the Bay Area are both particularly vulnerable, as we have more than our fair share of wood smoke and diesel pollution. Fortunately, statewide, California is already ahead of the curve with its policies directed toward black carbon reduction. Diesel engine controls, clean-car regulations, and burning restrictions have made black carbon contribute only 11 percent of the state's estimated impact on climate change as projected by a 100-year global warming prognosis -- compared to a 23 percent impact of black carbon on the same prognosis globally. Nevertheless, 2014 and the years to follow may well see continued efforts more widely and strictly to regulate biomass burning and diesel engines in the region, alongside refortified monitoring programs that follow black carbon's prevalence and influence in the Bay Area.
- Chris Ingraham

Membership

A Loss in the League
LWVO is deeply saddened to report the loss of member Jerry Gavzy, who passed away on January 30. We send our love and condolences to his wife, LWVO President Katherine Gavzy.

Membership Updates
Welcome new member Stephen Shefler

Welcome back member Liz Spander