Making Democracy Work

VOTER March 2012

LWV National Privatization Study

The LWV is undertaking a national study of privatization, and this program meeting will explore some of the issues involved.

When:  Saturday, March 24, from 9:30 AM to Noon
Where: Caesar Chavez Public Library, 3301 East 12th Street, Suite 271, near Oakland BART: Fruitvale Station (exit station into Fruitvale Village and take a left at E. 12th Street).

Helen Hutchison, Kathleen Cha, and Yolanda Schonbrun will present the National Privatization Study background and materials, and facilitate discussion. Any consensus of the members reached at the Study meeting will be forwarded to the National League.

For more information about the national study, see the article below.

Privatization Issues to Consider

"Brits want to manage [California] lottery", headline from San Jose Mercury News, 11/6/11

A United Kingdom firm, Camelot Group, is offering $1 billion to privately run part of the California lottery - its sales and marketing. Camelot Group operates the U.K.'s national lottery and consults for the state agency that runs the California lottery, so they have highly relevant experience. The firm expects that it could produce much higher profits for the state, so have offered as much as $1 billion upfront, and then would share the increased profits with the state.

A more profitable lottery would give more cash to schools - surely needed in this economy. While profits have grown about 4% in the latest fiscal year, many have said the program is capable of earning a great deal more. What should the state consider before deciding to privatize the lottery's sales and marketing, or any other programs, and if they decide to privatize, how should it be done? These are the questions with which our League study on Privatization is grappling.

▪ Would the public good be served?
▪ What impact would this have on the state's current employees? (In the case of the lottery, Camelot Group promises that no union jobs would be eliminated. How would this promise be ensured?)
▪ Should this be "pure" privatization (transfer of assets) or instead a well-written contract for services?
▪ How would the state ensure that the procedures followed are not only transparent but also subject to regulation and oversight and accountability?
▪ What authority should a private company have to make decisions binding on the state, for example raising the cost of lottery tickets?
▪ What would happen if it failed to comply with state terms or failed to produce as promised?
▪ What needs to be included in the all-important privatization agreement or contract?
▪ How would the public be involved in the privatization transactions?
▪ Should all contracts be put out to bid, or should single-source contracts be permitted?

If these questions interest you, join our LWVO study group. Or, do some reading about the study and come informed to our consensus meetings that will be held in March. You can find complete information at the LWVUS Privatization website.

For more information, or to join the study committee, contact Helen Hutchison at helen@helenhutch.com.

President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy

I am writing this on the eve of Presidents' Day, a holiday that we observe these days mainly by going to department store sales. Shopping is of course a time-honored American tradition, but the holiday makes me think about another American tradition that has changed dramatically since the eras of Washington and Lincoln: voting. The vote was once denied to women, to blacks, to anyone who could not prove he owned property. In the deep South even after passage of the 14th Amendment, phony "literacy" tests were used to keep African-Americans from the polls. Universal suffrage is now mostly the accepted law of the land.

But watch out for that word "mostly." In fact, voter rights are endangered around the country, and the national League website features an entire advocacy section on Voter Protection. See the LWVUS website. Leagues in Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan and elsewhere are fighting restrictive voter ID laws. The Florida and South Carolina Leagues are struggling with legislation deliberately hampering voter registration campaigns. Californians may not be kept from the polls by restrictive laws, but they may be staying away out of cynicism, and here as elsewhere the power of the vote is damaged by the corrosive effect of big money and misinformation about the election process. The California DISCLOSE Act, AB 1148, just failed to win a two-thirds majority in the Assembly by two votes. The League and other groups are preparing to continue the fight for fair campaign finance reform; if you would like to learn more about this critically important issue, come to the Hot Topics discussion on March 26. Read the article.

News of attacks on voter rights makes us appreciate even more the value to the community of League voter registration projects. I am excited about the group of LWVO volunteers who will partner with community college students and other Oakland organizations to register high school seniors this spring. If you want to take part, call the League office and leave your name. Our sister League in Berkeley has just printed a bumper sticker that reads: Occupy the Voting Booth! Register-Get Informed-Vote. I believe that pretty much says it all.

Lend a Hand for the Luncheon

League volunteers make it possible for us to host 300+ people at our Annual All-City Luncheon in the Pavilion at Scott's at Jack London Square. We need you to make the luncheon a success. These are short, well-defined tasks, an easy way to get to know other League members, and make a real contribution.

Wednesday, March 21: Help prepare the mailing of our invitations. Spend an hour or two (or more!) chatting with other League members as we place invitations, response cards and return envelopes in outer envelopes which we then label. We gather from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Common Room at Swan's Co-Housing, 930 Clay Street. Come when you can; stay as long as you wish. Light refreshments will be available.

Wednesday, May 2--the day of the Luncheon-- volunteer to
▪ place flowers and League handouts on the tables
▪ direct guests to the registration tables, rest rooms, parking validation machines
▪ staff the registration tables
▪ help guests find their tables

Lend a hand to help make the luncheon go smoothly. Contact Bea Rudney if you'd like to volunteer: (510) 531-8287 or rudney@sbcglobal.net

Grant Writer Needed

Have you had experience preparing grant proposals? Know someone who has who might be willing to volunteer with the League to do this?

We plan to produce thousands of copies of our popular Oakland Easy Voter Guide for the November 2012 election that will include races for Oakland City Attorney, City Council, and School Board.

We want to secure a grant to help us fund translation of the Guide into Spanish and Chinese and to pay for layout and printing of the document.

Contact Bonnie Hamlin, Development Committee Co-Chair: (510) 658-6212; bhamlin@igc.org.

Let's Have Lunch Together

LWVO's Annual All-City Luncheon will take place Wednesday, May 2 in Scott's Pavilion at Jack London Square.

Join us for a tasty lunch, presentations of Making Democracy Work Awards, and a talk by Alex Briscoe, Director of the Alameda County HealthCare Agency.

This year we present awards to the Street Level Health Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of underserved urban immigrant communities, and to John Sutter, member of the Board of Directors of East Bay Regional Park District, retired judge, and former Oakland City Councilmember.

Mr. Briscoe's topic will be "The Affordable Care Act: Innovation and Equity in Alameda County."

Invitations will be mailed the third week in March. Mark your calendars and plan to come. Bring a friend!

If you are ready to buy luncheon tickets now, you can do it here.

Women's History Month Kickoff Celebration

Progressive Oakland Women for Empowerment and Reform,"POWER," will kick off Women's History Month with a special celebratory event. LWVO is one of the co-sponsors.

When:  March 3, 10-Noon
Where: Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1

The celebration will include historical vignettes, speakers, and an oral history survey.

For more information check the website:

Citizen Education Forum about the Recall

Two separate petitions are circulating to recall Mayor Jean Quan. To inform the public about what is involved in a recall, Martin Reynolds of Bay Area News Group, former editor of the Oakland Tribune and our 2011 All- City Luncheon speaker, organized a panel to explain to the public what the recall requirements are, what history has to say about recalls, and what the consequences of a recall would be. LWVO was a co-sponsor of the symposium, held on January 25. After an introduction by Mr. Reynolds, a panel of five spoke about different aspects of the recall process and answered questions from the floor. The panel included Mark Morodomi of the City Attorney's office speaking on legal requirements, Professor Max Neiman of UC Berkeley, Associate Professor Corey Cook of University of San Francisco, and Evelyn Hsu of the Maynard Institute on context, and Cecily Burt, Oakland Tribune Investigative Reporter speaking on likely candidates to replace Jean Quan.

With over 100 in the audience, and live streaming over the Internet by BANG, all involved considered it a success. The tone maintained was impartial and informative; audience and participants all knew that the purpose was not to evaluate either the Mayor or the recall campaigns, but to understand their implications for the city. Many non-League members attended and requested more information about LWVO; we hope to gain at least a few new members from the event.

Legal Requirements and Timeline
Petitioners have 160 days to gather the required signatures: 10% of registered voters or 19,800 signatures. The deadline for the first petition is May 14; the second is July 12. Once a petition is submitted, the city has 30 days to verify the signatures, and if enough are approved, the City Council has 14 days to choose a date for the election, which must be 88-125 days later. The election asks the question of whether or not to recall the mayor and also, if the recall wins, who should replace her. All those who had registered to run for mayor would be included on the ballot.

Context
Across the country, 28 states have recall rules and procedures on the books. In California, recall was a part of the early 20th century progressive movement reforms, together with initiative and referendum, intended to create a democracy more responsive to the people. Most recalls have been for crimes or other egregious acts, but there have been many for policy reasons. Critics maintain that recall leads to increased divisiveness within the government and the electorate. Outcomes can be surprising; an attempt was made to recall Dianne Feinstein early in her term as S.F. Mayor. The recall failed, and she went on to win the general election a few months later with a huge majority.

Likely Candidates for Mayor
So far, no potential candidates have spoken publicly about wanting to run.

Audience Questions
What would be the cost to Oakland of a recall election?

Approximately one million dollars.

Would the election to replace the mayor be a majority election or ranked-choice?
This has not yet been determined. The City Attorney is researching this question and expects to have an answer soon.

How long does it take to get over the rancor?
It may last a long time.

Why are people here so unhappy with their politicians?
There are a lot of problems and a lot of activism.

Do politicians become more responsive if someone else is recalled?
Probably, yes.

Campaign Finance Reform Proposals

Come to a HOT TOPICS discussion

Monday, March 26
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: http://www.lwvoakland.org

California Universal Health Care Act

From the California LWV
A Letter from State Senator Mark Leno

Dear Friends,
Most of you have likely heard the disappointing news that our bill, SB 810, the California Universal Health Care Act, failed to move off the Senate Floor by January 31st, meaning it cannot advance further in the legislative process this year. Despite our unwavering advocacy, too few members were willing to cast votes in favor of SB 810 this year, including several members who had voted for the legislation before. Unfortunately this means that Californians will continue to have a broken health care system in dire need of change, but that is not for lack of effort.

I want to thank and recognize the valiant efforts of the many groups and individuals who worked so hard to make our universal health care bill a reality. First, the California School Employees Association and California Nurses Association led lobbying efforts on behalf of SB 810 all year. Also, Campaign for a Healthy California, Health Care for All, California Physicians for a National Health Plan, Single Payer Now, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Health Professional Student Alliance, League of Women Voters and many other groups organized their members to advocate on behalf of the bill.

I encourage you to continue building support for universal health care at the grass roots level within your communities. Reach out to your co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family members about why their elected officials should vote for Medicare for All. Help build our case to the governor, other elected officials and those who are currently seeking office so that they know the people of California support single-payer legislation.

As the author of SB 810, I share your deep commitment to this cause, this movement, and the people behind it. We will not stop fighting until we have comprehensive health care for every Californian.

Summary of Annual Program Planning/Position Review Meeting

The Oakland League's annual Program Planning/ Position Review meeting was held on Saturday, January 21, 2012, at Swan's Market Co-Housing Common Room, 930 Clay Street in Oakland. At the meeting members decided whether to recommend any changes to existing positions and recommended proposed areas for emphasis. The members also discussed proposals from other Leagues.

This year, the twenty-two members in attendance (and one non-member who joined the League after the meeting!) discussed the National League positions, the Bay Area League positions, and the Oakland League positions, as well as three proposals from other Leagues around the country. A full summary of the meeting discussions and recommendations will be presented to the membership at the LWVO Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. But here is a brief recap of the recommendations:
The members recommended support of a request from the LWV of the District of Columbia on a new position on sentencing reform. The members selected the following top two issues to recommend to the Bay Area League for regional action during 2012-2014: (1) focus on regional government issues; and (2) encourage effective public participation in regional governance issues, including public input without requiring attendance at meetings.

The members proposed a minor change to the existing LWVO Housing position and selected the following areas of emphasis for the LWVO in 2012: (1) expand the reach and impact of the LWVO, including efforts to expand the Observer Corps; (2) educate members and the public about city finance and budgeting issues; (3) provide active support for the Public Ethics Commission; and (4) encourage increased transparency and accountability in city government

Review of January's Hot Topics Meeting on Privatization

January's Hot Topics meeting was a discussion of Privatization of Government Services. Leading the discussion was Murial Strand, a member of the Sacramento LWV and a participant in the LWV National Privatization Study. Among the topics raised were why Privatization is being proposed in so many areas and at different levels of government, and whether it is a good thing.

To learn more about this topic, attend the program meeting on March 24, and see the article at the top.

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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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Membership

Welcome New Members
Mikki Baer
Phyllis Gaines
Alison Post

Changes to the Roster Susan Schroeder's correct email address

LWVO Board Highlights

The February Board meeting included discussion of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission. After a search of many months for a new Executive Director of the commission (its only paid staff), Kelly O'Haire was hired, but left after only two weeks of employment in circumstances that are not yet clear. We are very disappointed. LWVO needs to continue its support for this commission.

The Board continues work on one of its most important goals: expanding and informing the electorate. It approved launching a pilot program to go into Oakland high schools to register seniors who are newly eligible to vote, and we are seeking funding to help us produce the Easy Voter Guide for the November 2012 election. As usual, we hope to produce it in three languages, and are looking for funding.

In an effort to expand our own membership as well, we are producing a new membership brochure.

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