Making Democracy Work


The League of Women Voters of Oakland Annual Meeting and Dinner

Wednesday, June 2    5:45--8:30 pm

Richard C. Trudeau Training Center
(the former East Bay Regional Park District Headquarters)
11500 Skyline Blvd., between Joaquin Miller and Redwood Roads

Dine with fellow League members, hear a brief wrap-up of the year's accomplishments, and vote for next year's program, budget, and new members of the Board

The speaker will be

Peter Schrag, Author and Journalist
Initiatives and Other California Political Addictions

A lifelong journalist and the author of several books, Peter Schrag has been writing about California politics for many years. He served as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee for 19 years and also wrote a weekly column for the Bee from 1996 until 2009. He now writes a weekly piece for the blog California Progress Report. He will talk about the history and effects of the California initiative process, the role of money in California politics, and other issues facing the state today.


RSVP by Friday, May 28, by mailing your check to the League office,
1305 Franklin Street, Suite 311, Oakland CA 94612,
or by calling the office at (510) 834-7640

$15--Dinner, meeting, and program
$5--Coffee, meeting, and program

Please bring the Call to 2010 Annual Meeting enclosed in last month's paper VOTER, if you can.


By Katherine Gavz

The past few weeks have been a time of both sorrow and joy for LWVO. We mourn the loss of our Voter Service chair Nikki Harris. Nikki's strength, courage and devotion to the League were an inspiration to all of us. I just looked over my emails and realized that the day before she died Nikki sent me a message confirming her intention to come to the Board meeting the following Monday. We will all miss her deeply.

On April 28th we gloried in the success of one of our best annual All-City Luncheons in many years. So many guests (in fact, too many guests - we sold out our available seats!) from the business, non-profit and government communities of Oakland came together to enjoy a stimulating program and each other's company. The event reinforced the important role that the League plays in the public life of the City of Oakland. Its success was due to the hard work of so many competent, dedicated LWVO volunteers. Your Development Committee is already thinking about how to repeat and build on this success next year. The quality of the program _ Chief of Police Anthony Batts and School Superintendent Tony Smith together - was a key factor. We welcome ideas from our members for another outstanding Luncheon program next year; please send your suggestions to the LWVO Office:

LWVO continues to be busy while wearing both our "hats": advocacy and voter education. The Oakland City Council asked our Action Committee to provide them with recommendations to improve the City's many citizen Boards and Commissions. We will be presenting our findings to the Council this coming month. Also, at the State and local levels League is acting vigorously to promote Proposition 15, Limited Public Financing of state elections. Our letter to the Editor supporting Prop 15 was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. LWVO's former President Helen Hutchison, now on the State League Board, has been speaking for Prop 15 around the state. You can help too by telling everyone you know to vote in favor of clean elections and against the corrupting influence of big money. Judy Merrill and Mary Weinstein, wearing the Voter Service "hat," have been responding to community requests for ballot issue speakers and candidate forums before the June elections. The November elections, with much more at stake, will be a real challenge for our Voter Service resources. Please consider participating in the fall. Our Speakers Bureau will train you to present the pros and cons of ballot issues, or you can commit just one evening and be a question-sorter at a candidate forum. All are fun and rewarding. Look for more on this in future VOTERs.

Finally, we hope everyone will consider renewing their membership and completing the member's Interest Survey before or at Annual Meeting on June 2. You may win a prize in the raffle drawing while you support your League. How can you say no?

Remembering Nikki Harris

It is with great sadness we write that long time League leader Nikki Harris passed away on May 6, 2010. Some of you know that she had been fighting cancer valiantly over the last few years. In true Nikki fashion, with her mighty zest, passion, and energy, she was doing work for the League up to the day before she died.

Nikki loved the League and gave much of herself, working to further it as an organization and to further its aims. In return, the League sustained her as she and her husband, Craig Spitzer, moved from Los Angeles to the Bay Area to Philadelphia to Los Angeles to New Jersey to Buffalo and finally, to Oakland. Everywhere she lived Nikki was an active member of the League. She felt that helping the League do the good that it does was one of the best parts of her life.

Nikki served on the LWV Oakland board as the voter service chair and program chair; on the LWV Bay Area Board as the education fund vice president; and on the steering committee for Smart Voter. She was an energetic and enthusiastic MTA (Management Training Advisor) for three other Leagues, providing them skillful assistance in both the minutia of League governance and energetically cheerleading as they strove to maintain strong Leagues. She had served on the LWV California board as development director and voter service director. Her tireless energy for membership development, voter service and a good financial base for the League set an example.

Given Nikki's devotion to the League, and especially in recent years to training and coaching Leagues, her husband has endowed a fund with the League of Women Voters of the United States that will be called the Nikki Harris Online Training Series Fund. This fund, which will further Nikki's work in developing local League leadership, honors Nikki's life and her efforts to help build the future of the League.

To contribute, please make a gift to the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF), and put "Nikki Harris Online Training Series" on the notation line. Send any gifts to the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) office at 1730 M Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20036.

Where Do Your Dues Go?

The League of Women Voters is a three-tiered organization. Members join a local League whose dues support all three levels of League. A portion of each member's dues goes to the state League and another portion goes to the national League. These are called per member payments.

In Oakland dues are $65 per year. $22 goes to the California League where per member payments comprise about 18% of revenues. Thus the LWV California budget relies very heavily on fundraising -- donations from individuals and grants for specific projects.

Per member payment for the LWV United States is $29.20. At the 2010 national convention delegates will vote on a budget which proposes an increase of $0.40. The per member payment is a major source of income for the LWVUS, providing partial support for advocacy, membership and organizational activities, convention and council, and national board and committee meetings. 59% of the LWVUS budget comes from fundraising. Both state and national Leagues have paid staff for both advocacy and educational activities, offices, and administrative expenses. They both provide substantial services in support of local Leagues.

So Oakland is left with $13.80 in dues from each member. No, it's $12.80 because there is a $1 per member payment to the LWV Bay Area which advocates on regional issues.

What to do? One option is to increase local dues. Oakland, like most Leagues, is very reluctant to do this. Like most Leagues, Oakland hopes that members who can will make donations beyond their dues to support their local League. So the Oakland League generates revenue through donations from individuals and from fundraising events.

Members who attend state and national conventions as delegates often go with some skepticism about how their dues are being used. For the most part, they seem to return convinced that the organization is doing its best to use its resources in support of the goals set by its members and the untold volunteer hours contributed by its members.

All-City Luncheon a Big Success

Our 19th Annual All-City Luncheon held on April 28 at Scott's Pavilion at Jack London Square was by all measures a success. Although the final figures aren't yet in, we made a goodly amount of money at this, our only big fundraiser of the year. Equally important, we had an event that brought together people from many different communities and interests in Oakland, and demonstrated the value of the League to the city. Business people, politicians, community leaders, and League members shared a good meal and lively conversation, acknowledged the achievements of the League's Making Democracy Work award winners, and enjoyed hearing from two inspiring new leaders in the city, Chief of Police Anthony Batts and Superintendent of Schools Tony Smith. Their conversation with each other and the audience was moderated by KQED anchor Belva Davis. We had a sell-out crowd.

This year's Making Democracy Work individual winner was Barbara Newcombe, a long time League member. She helped to draft the Sunshine Ordinance of Oakland in 1994 and served on the Oakland Public Ethics Commission from 2000 to 2003. She has been the driving force behind the rediscovery and renovation of the historic Cleveland Cascade.

The group award went to the Oakland Neighborhood Law Corps (NLC). The NLC is made up primarily of young attorneys who devote the first two years of their careers using the law to improve the city of Oakland. They have partnered with local businesses, community groups and nonprofits to protect consumers, abate public nuisances, and remove sources of crime in Oakland neighborhoods. NLC has played a major role in the city's efforts to protect tenants in foreclosed buildings. NLC also educates Oakland citizens about their legal rights and how to access city hall. It mobilizes both private groups and government resources to respond to the needs of their communities.

Many, many thanks are due to all the people who supported and helped accomplish this event. We had 11 Patrons and 13 Donors who provided financial support by purchasing tables or partial tables. In addition to the members of the Development Committee and the Board, a number of other League members pitched in to help in a variety of ways: preparing invitations for mailing, helping with registration at the luncheon itself, and assisting with the program. Among the many volunteers were: Nancy Auker, Helen Bersie, Meg Bowerman, Sandra Coleman, Kathy Collop, Celia Davis, Margaret Elizares, Mony Flores-Bauer, Mary Gormly, Annmarie Hallin, Ruth Hafter, Helen Hutchinson, Gen Katz, Ann Killebrew, Miriam Laska, Diane Latko, Helen Neville, Barbara Newcombe, Robert Raeburn, Louise Rothman-Reiner, Joyce Roy, Bea Rudney, Libby Schaaf, Rebecca Schneider, Yolanda Schonbrun, Rita Sklar, Bev Solo, Mary Edna Stevens, Mary Ann Thompson, Susan Veit, Allene Warren, and Iris Winogrond.

City Council Voted as the League Recommended

On April 20 the City Council voted on two issues related to ranked choice voting in Oakland. As reported in the April issue of the VOTER, ranked choice voting means one election in November for mayor, city council, city auditor, city attorney, and school board, eliminating the June primary election for these offices. The Council was considering two proposals about ranked choice voting on April 20:

  • Using public campaign money to fund a voter education program about ranked
    choice voting by offering grants to community nonprofits. The League's letters
    of March 2 and March 16 expressing concerns about the proposal are on the League's
    website at

  • Increasing individual contribution limits from $700 to $1,000 and group limits from $1,400 to $1,600. The League's March 1 letter opposing this proposal is on our website. Oakland's limits are already higher than those of most cities.

On the voter education program the Council was split 4 to 4. Mayor Dellums broke the tie--the second time he has broken a tie since he took office in 2007. He voted to oppose the proposal, saying that the County Registrar of Voters and nonprofit organization would provide education programs. This echoed the League's letter which said:

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is prepared to conduct an effective voter
education campaign for Ranked Choice Voting, reaching out to voters in all three
cities who will be using this system for the first time. All of the materials will be in
three languages: English, Spanish, and Chinese.

But Mayor Dellums' opposition came from his belief in publicly funded elections. He said, according to the Oakland Tribune, "I am a firm believer-- way back to the 1960s--that the only significant campaign reform that makes sense is to fully, publicly fund elections....To take private (money) out."

The Council rejected increasing contribution limits by a 4-3 vote; one member was absent.

Time to Renew Your Membership

Most LWVO memberships expire on Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Please take this opportunity to renew your membership for 2010-11 and make a contribution to the League. You'll find the renewal form and interest survey in the middle of your paper copy of the VOTER, along with an envelope addressed to the League office.

There's an incentive for you to renew before (or at) the Annual Meeting. Your name will be entered in a drawing for prizes including a free ticket to next year's All-City Luncheon IF you renew before the Annual Meeting (or bring the form & your check to Annual Meeting), AND use the participation survey to tell us how you would like to be involved with LWVO. (If you can't be active, use the survey to tell us that.)

Our membership year runs from Thursday, July 1, 2010 to Thursday, June 30, 2011. We ask EVERYONE to renew before July 1, even if you have joined recently (or in the months since last July 1st).

To calculate your dues, see the following table.

Check the date on your VOTER newsletter's mailing label. It's the date your membership expires.

If membership expires in:Individual owes:Second, third or fourth
household members owe:
Student owes:

If the date says 2050, you have been a member for 50 or more years, are considered to be a "Lifetime" or "Honorary" member and don't owe us any dues! (Please let us know if you are a Lifetime member but have not been acknowledged as one.)

Legislative Interview with Loni Hancock

Representatives from the Oakland and Piedmont Leagues met with Sate Senator Loni Hancock (District 9) on May 7, 2010. Their questions and Senator Hancock's answers follow.

1. Budget Dilemma: How will you prioritize the choices the Legislature must make to align the state's spending and revenue in a way that addresses the need for fair, sufficient and flexible revenue sources that can provide for state and local government services?

Ms. Hancock stated that the current system of governance does not allow us to do that. It is impossible to reach agreement because of the two-thirds requirement to pass the budget. This requirement empowers the minority to make demands and control the budget making process. Although cuts have been made every year for the last six years, there is not enough revenue in to fund the services in place now.

2. The Budget Process: What proposals do you support to fix the budget process?

First and foremost, require a majority vote to pass the budget. There are bills addressing this issue such as SCA 5 which states: This measure would exempt General Fund appropriations in the Budget Bill from the 2/3 vote requirement

Secondly, Ms. Hancock is in favor of a two year budget process with the first year to set the budget and the second year to work on problems for the state. She would propose loosening the strings that Proposition 13 has imposed on local governments and consider a commercial and industrial property tax reassessment.

3. Constitutional Reform: What types of reforms do you think are important to make government function more effectively?

Proposition 15 (California Fair Elections Act) on the June Ballot is very important, but Ms. Hancock expects strong opposition.

There will be a term limit proposition on the November ballot which would allow a longer period to serve in the legislature, thereby giving lawmakers more time to learn and become effective.

4. General Question: What other major issues do you think the Legislature must address in 2010? What are your priorities

▪ Education: Funding Policy
▪ Environment: AB 32 Air Resources Board Planning and Implementation in the next few years. (Watch for oil company initiative to weaken this bill).
▪ Governance is broken. Need to begin the process of repair in small steps (Prop 15 pilot program)
▪ Need to defend policy gains.
▪ Build Green Economy, preserve green corridor.

Additional Comments:
Ms. Hancock is on the Select Committee for Master Plan for Higher Education with a goal of providing high quality, low cost education for California students. This was the goal of the previous Master Plan and needs to be updated.

Ms. Hancock stated that we need to have a well thought out message that taxes are not "stealing" but are supporting the things we need.

More Information about Propositions 15 and 16

The League of Women Voters strongly supports Propositon 15, the California Fair Elections Act. The League is opposed to Proposition 16, Local Public Electricity.

Last month's VOTER described the reasons behind the League's positions. If you would like more information from other sources, check these Web sites:

Prop 15:

Prop 16:


June Election Activities

Because of the low number of both local candidates and state ballot measures, this was a small election for us. Before her untimely death, Nikki Harris led the training for speakers and also trained Mary Weinstein to handle Candidate Forums. Nikki's presence will be very sorely missed.

Candidate Forum
Mary Weinstein coordinated the one Forum held in which the following participated: Michael and Sandra Coleman were moderators, Suzanne Loosen and Ann Killigrew were the timekeepers, and Megan Chenoweth and Peter Weinstein acted as question gatherers and sorters. Although candidates for both County Superintendent of Schools and County District Attorney were running unopposed, we included them in our Forum to present their answers to questions voters had for them.

Voter Registration
Voter registration, led by Allene Warren, supplied registration materials to local sites via a cadre of dedicated members.

Speakers Bureau
This election speakers introduced audiences to the ins and outs of Ranked Choice Voting and presented the usual neutral pros and cons on the five state ballot measures. Unfortunately materials from the Registrar of Voters were not ready to help in this endeavor. We are told that "official" information will be available by August. As a result there was much emailing back and forth about how RCV works and how to explain it both in words and in visuals. Many thanks go to the speakers who pulled off this feat: Mary Bergan, Meg Bowerman, Megan Chenoweth, Terry Kulka, Helen Neville, Marion Taylor, and Julie Waldman. Because LWVC no longer prints and distributes the Pros and Cons, (although it is available online) we chose to distribute Easy Voter Guides to our audiences for the first time.

Easy Voter Guides

We did not do a separate distribution of the Easy Voter Guide for this election, instead counting on groups to order for themselves.