Making Democracy Work

VOTER-January-2010

Bay Area League Day 2010

The League of Women Voters of the Bay Area presents
Bay Area League Day 2010

Big Steps, Little Steps to Addressing Climate Change

Saturday, January 30 * 9:00 AM -- 2:00 PM

MetroCenter
101 Eighth Street
Oakland, California

The upcoming League Day will feature keynote speaker Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air se gas emissions. Other experts will address air quality, transportation, Resources Board, on how Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg) will require reductions in greenhouse gas emmisions. Other experts will address air quality, transportation, housing, and land use.

Visit http://www.lwvbayarea.org or call (510) 839-1608 to learn more. See the paper for more details and a registration form, or click here to get a registration form.

January Hot Topics

The Future of Oakland and the School Board

The excellence of Oakland's schools directly ties into the health of our city. Youth who graduate from high school with skills to continue their educations, fill jobs, and contribute to their neighborhoods will not be adding to our national reputation as a top-tier crime scene. What is the role of our school board in promoting OUSD student achievement? How does our school board support effective principals and teachers and personalized learning environments for OUSD students? LWVO invites its members and the larger community to attend this gathering. School Director and LWVO member Jody London will join us in a discussion of issues.

Monday, January 25
6:30 -- 8 PM
REDWOOD HEIGHTS COMMUNITY CENTER
3883 ALISO AVENUE
(Just off Redwood Road near Highway 13)

THIS IS CHANGED FROM THE PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED SITE

President's Message -

By Katherine Gavzy

Let's welcome in the New Year in a spirit of hope and commitment.

We can all agree that 2009 was a phenomenally difficult year at all levels of government and civic life: global, national, for the State of California, and for the City of Oakland and its citizens.

The year started with the inauguration of a new President and hopes for recovery from the financial and economic crisis. Many of us in the League and other organizations also hoped to see, at long last, the enactment of health care reform and meaningful legislation to protect us from the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Instead, we had a good lesson in just how hard it can be to accomplish the change you want in a democracy as legislation on both health care reform and climate change suffered through painful delays and political horse-trading. California has been paying the price for the inefficiencies and inequities in the state's financial administration as well as for the weaknesses in government processes that exacerbated the impact of the state budget problems on counties and cities. The City of Oakland's financial hole seemed to grow deeper and wider daily while City government appeared to be in a state of paralysis and disarray.

In the midst of all this gloom it is important and encouraging to remember that the League has carefully-crafted positions on all these issues (of course), which we can and do use to support advocacy and action. Thoughtful action is the best antidote to gloom. The article Connect with the League in Sacramento and Washington DC, tells you how to receive Action Alerts from the state and national Leagues. Check out both websites - http://www.lwvc.org and http://www.lwv.org - to see statements of League positions on representative government, health care reform, natural resources, effective state government, and state and local finances. Visit our own website, http://www.lwvoakland.org, to see LWVO's positions on effective local government, the budget process and effective local financial management.

This issue of the VOTER is full of examples of how the League carries out citizen and member education, develops positions, and then takes action. The month of January will be an active and fruitful one for League members. Don't miss the opportunity to be a part of LWVO's annual review of issues and positions on January 9. Read about the anticipated success of LWVO and other groups in getting the City to implement both ranked choice voting and a responsible system of records management. Learn about water plans for the delta that will affect the entire state at the presentation by the Leagues of Women Voters of Diablo Valley and San Joaquin Valley on January 23. Join in the discussion of the Oakland School Board and how it promotes student achievement at Hot Topics on January 25. Learn about steps being taken in California to address climate change at Bay Area League Day on January 30.

After a busy January we'll take the time to celebrate ourselves and have some fun at the League's 90th Anniversary party on Friday, February 19. We will mark the event with art and wine - after all, this is the Bay Area! See you there.

Ranked Choice Voting

In mid-December Secretary of State Debra Bowen gave her approval to ranked choice voting (RCV; also known as instant runoff voting) for Alameda County, allowing for a single 2010 election in November for city and school officials instead of the traditional June primary followed by a runoff in November.

Later in the month City Attorney John Russo issued an opinion to the City Council that the City is now required to switch to RCV. "No further action by the City Council is required for the implementation (of instant-runoff voting), and the charter provides no mechanism whereby the City Council or any city officer may advance or delay its implementation."

The City Council is scheduled to act on a memorandum of understanding with the County to implement RCV at its meeting on January 5. The memorandum will allocate the costs of the implementation and the voter education plan for the first year. The total costs are split among three cities - Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro - based on the number of voters in each city. This will cover the full cost of RCV implementation. Oakland's cost for the first year of RCV is expected to be approximately $730,000. Berkeley and San Leandro will be paying less because they have fewer voters. The current cost of a June primary for Oakland can be up to $800,000, so the cost for the first year of RCV will be offset by not holding a June election for the city. After the first year it is expected that the savings will be significant since the costs will drop dramatically.

The voter education will be extensive - including outreach to the community, mailings to all voters, and an extra pollworker at each polling place. In addition to the voter education by the Registrar of Voters, the League of Women Voters has committed to do voter education. We will add a short education segment to each of our Pros and Cons presentations and candidate forums. If we have the person power we also hope to offer short "how to vote" presentations.

Redistricting

Mapping California's Future

You can participate in a once-in-a-decade opportunity to map California's future!

For decades, the state legislature designed the districts from which we elect our representatives to the legislature and congress. The result? A series of gerrymanders that protected parties and incumbents while ignoring community interests. For example, in 2001 the Berryessa area of northeast San Jose, an area with a large concentration of Asian American voters, was divided into four Assembly districts, effectively leaving that community without the opportunity to elect its own representatives. Organizations like the League are determined that in 2011 the district maps will be drawn to keep communities like Berryessa intact and to hold politicians accountable.

In 2008 the people of California put a stop to this kind of disregard for the voters and their communities by passing Proposition 11 - the Voters First Act. Now the responsibility for drawing new district maps for the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization will go to 14 voters chosen to serve on California's first Citizens Redistricting Commission. With a state as big and diverse as California, who draws the lines - and how those lines are drawn - will truly shape the future of our state. The creation of a commission gives this power to real people because political candidates, lobbyists and big political donors can't serve.

The commission will be made up of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members from neither party, so every view will be heard. You may be one of the right people to do this job - or you may know someone who is. How do you get involved or encourage others to? It's easy to apply: Go to http://www.WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov for details. Applications will be accepted online between December 15, 2009 and February 12, 2010. You'll also find much more information at http://www.commoncause.org/redistrictingCA. Now's your chance! Step forward and be a part of historic change in California!

League's 90th Anniversary

Come Join the Celebration of the League's 90th Anniversary with Art, Wine and Fun!

The Oakland and the Berkeley-Albany-Emeryville Leagues are teaming up to celebrate the League of Women Voters' 90th anniversary in the new year. Not coincidentally, 2010 also marks the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. And if those weren't reasons enough to celebrate, 2010 is also the 190th anniversary of the birth of Susan B. Anthony. Bring your friends and potential new League members to celebrate these momentous anniversaries with art, wine, camaraderie, general fun and, of course, birthday cake!

Where: Pro Arts at the Oakland Art Gallery, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. The Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Plaza between Broadway and Clay at 14th Street, directly across from City Hall. The entrance is towards the center of the Plaza in the breezeway (Kahn's Alley).

About the Gallery: Pro Arts was founded in 1974 as the Alameda County Neighborhood Arts Program. It provides access to contemporary art in Oakland and the Bay Area through exhibitions, open studios, collaborative programs, and more. In addition to serving as an advocate for regional artists, Pro Arts offers youth and community programs that reflect innovative artistic expression and the rich cross-section of cultures, ethnicity, age, and race in Oakland and the Bay Area. Last year Pro Arts exhibited 580 artists, drawing an annual audience of 65,000.

Friday, February 19
6:00 -- 8:30 PM

Annual Program Planning/Policy Review Meeting

Beat Those Post-Holiday Blahs At The LWVO

Start the new year out right together with your fellow LWVO members. Our annual program planning meeting is when we discuss the League's current policy positions and issues of particular interest to our members.

This year, we will discuss the League's current local, Bay Area and national policy positions and decide which we want to retain and which we want to revise, come up with new ideas for studies or emphasis, and recommend priorities for local and regional action. Our recommendations will be presented to the LWVO general membership at the Annual Meeting in June.

Discussions are always fun and lively. Come take part in this grassroots process, make your voice heard, and impact the League's advocacy work in the coming year. No need to stop for breakfast on the way over - coffee, fruit, pastries, and bagels will be served!

Saturday, January 9
9:30 AM to noon
at the home of Mary Bergan
2101 Woodbine Avenue, Oakland

Directions from 580 East:
Take the Fruitvale Avenue exit (Exit 23)
Turn right onto Fruitvale Avenue
Take immediate right onto Woodbine Avenue
2101 Woodbine is on the left
Call Mary if you need other directions: 510-532-1856

Civic Hosting

The Russians have come and gone and what's left to do? The final accounting and many thank yous! We received a large check from LWVUS to cover our expenses. Thanks to all the hosts, hostesses, and volunteers who donated time, dinners, food for events, and mileage, the Oakland and Piedmont Leagues were able to make some money on the grant. Each League is approximately $1600 richer. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped to make this activity such a great success.

Delta Water Plans Forum

The Leagues of Women Voters of
Diablo Valley and San Joaquin Valley
present

Delta Water Plans...How Can We

▪ Restore the delta and maintain a healthy ecology?
▪ Keep the delta accessible for all to enjoy?
▪ Provide necessary water for farmers?
▪ Have quality water in the quantities we need?

Who will benefit? Who will pay? Why you need to be in on the decision making.

Controversy abounds over how to use this precious natural resource that suffers from present drought conditions.

As voters, we need to be informed and direct our government agencies and legislators to work out solutions for ourselves and our future!

Come listen! Ultimately you the voter and taxpayer will direct the decisions that will impact the quality of life of our Delta and of the economy of our state for the next century.

A moderated panel of experts will include:

~ Dr. Gregory Gartrell, Assistant Manager of the Contra Costa Water District.
~ Susanna Schlendorf, 15th Assembly District Director for Joan Buchanan
~ Kari Fisher, Counsel, the Farm Bureau.
~ Karla Nemeth, Liaison, CA Natural Resources Agency and Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.
~ David Nesmith, Environmental Water Caucus, environment advocate.
~ Dr. Lawrence Kolb, former Assistant Director for the Water Quality Board (retired).

Come listen and ask questions. Free and Open to the public. Beverages and a snack provided.

Saturday, January 23, 2010
10 AM - 1 PM
Antioch Historical Society Hall
1500 W. 4th St.
Antioch, CA 94509

Hutchison New LWVC Government Director

LWVO's Past President Helen Hutchison is joining the state program team as Government Director. Her first major task is spearheading the League's work to pass the California Fair Elections Act on the June 2010 ballot. She will also work with the rest of the state team on constitutional reform and get her feet wet in ongoing work on redistricting implementation. You can contact Helen at govt@lwvc.org.

Connect with the League in Sacramento and Washington DC

Is there a particular federal or state issue that the League is following about which you'd like more information?

Would you like to receive Action Alerts from the League of Women Voters of California?

Visit LWVC's website (http://www.lwvc.org) and click on "Act Now!" This will take you to a page where you can sign up to receive Action Alerts, write a letter to your state Senator or Assemblyperson asking them to support real reform by reduction of the two-thirds requirement to pass the budget or raise revenues, and learn what the League is doing about a variety of other issues.

Or click on "Sign-up for E-news" to receive a monthly newsletter from LWVC, and to let LWV California know what specific issues you'd like to follow.

Interested in issues at the national level? The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages you to join online discussion groups by going to their website (http://www.lwv.org) and clicking on "For Members." From this section of the Web site you can access a wealth of information about the League and register to join one of the League Sponsored Email Lists.

Are you getting more emails from the League than you would like to? You can let LWVUS know that you would prefer not to receive emails (or phone calls) from them by logging onto their system and clicking on the appropriate choices.

Not Internet savvy? If you would like help "disconnecting" from LWVC or LWVUS, leave a message at LWV Oakland's office (510) 834-7640 and someone will contact you to help you pare down the contacts to a manageable number.

Council To Take Up Records Management . . . Finally

At its meeting December 15, the Finance and Management Committee of the Oakland City Council considered proposals from the Public Ethics Commission (PEC) to develop a system for records management.

Speaking on behalf of the amendments to the city's sunshine ordinance were Helen Hutchison for LWVO as well as League member Barbara Newcombe and a representative of Make Oakland Better Now. The League had pushed to get the issue back on the agenda after a year of Council inaction.

Committee members and Council president Jane Brunner wanted clarification on some of the specifics of the PEC's proposals, but all agreed that the Council had to take action within the next several weeks. It was agreed that the PEC and the City Clerk would review their proposals in light of questions raised in the hearing, and come to the January 12 meeting of the committee with revisions that will allow the committee to recommend the amended ordinance to the full Council.

City Clerk LaTonda Simmons informed the committee that the City has received 60 applications for the position of records manager and that she expects Oakland to have a records manager named by late January.

Look for League statements on records management at http://lwvoakland.org and http://abetteroakland.com.