Making Democracy Work

VOTER-November-2010

Finding a Fix for a Broken State

Joe Mathews is author with Mark Paul of the new book California Crackup--How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. He will speak to LWVO members and other interested parties at our November program meeting.

Tuesday, November 16 - 6:00 to 7:30
Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3
One, Frank Ogawa Plaza
(inside the 14th Street entrance to City Hall)

In California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul expose the constitutional origins of the current political and economic problems in California, including the lingering consequences of 1978's Prop 13 and the conflict inherent in our three governing systems: an election system designed to produce governing majorities, a consensus-based legislative system that amounts to minority rule, and an inflexible system of direct democracy that trumps the first two systems. They offer innovative solutions that will allow Californians to debate our options and choose the best ones, hold elected officials accountable for results, and change course if something isn't working. This promises to be a very timely and informative talk.

Joe Mathews is Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the author of The People's Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy, contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times and lead blogger for NBC's Prop Zero.

His co-author, Mark Paul, is senior scholar and deputy director of the California program at the New America Foundation. He was formerly deputy treasurer of California and deputy editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.

You can read a piece of what Mr. Mathews has to say here:

Mr. Mathews will have copies of California Crackup available for purchase and signing after the talk.

Light refreshments will be served.

BART: Exit at the 12th Street/City Center Station
Parking: Street parking (metered until 6 PM); also, the Clay Street Garage at 1414 Clay Street

Spread the word: Invite your friends, neighbors, colleagues to join you!

Co-President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy
By the time you receive this VOTER, our latest wild and crazy election season will be almost over. LWVO's Voter Service volunteers will begin to recover and reflect on the meaning of it all. Ballot measure pros and cons presentations and candidate forums were in great demand this season and very well attended. In addition to those sponsored or co-sponsored by LWVO, dozens of mayoral forums were held all around the city. We hope that the increased interest will result in increased voter turnout.

We want to believe citizens flocked to Voter Service events because of a "healthy skepticism" about the heavily financed campaign ads and mailers and wanted to hear and judge for themselves. Responsible non-partisan groups like the League play an especially vital role in this new, post-Citizens United era of unlimited political spending. ("See article on page 6".) When presenting the ballot measure pros and cons, I include the names of groups and companies that contributed to the both sides of campaigns. Audiences respond with interest and often with rueful laughter. It seems no surprise to people that Valero Oil and Occidental Petroleum Company were among the top financers of the campaign to pass Proposition 23, which would overturn the climate pollution controls of Assembly Bill 32.

As League members, we should educate ourselves about origins of campaign money. Two great sources for this information are http://www.followthemoney.org, a project of National Institute on Money in State Politics, and http://cavotes.org, from the LWVC education fund. Go to http://cavotes.org/issues/campaign-financing-and-dislosure for information on navigating statewide campaign finance information on the Secretary of State's Cal-Access Web site.

Unfortunately, healthy skepticism can easily turn to cynicism about the influence of money in political campaigns, and then to apathy. That makes the League's two goals--a participating and informed electorate--even harder to reach. Our Voter Service volunteers have worked harder than ever this season to reach our goals and educate the public. We want to recognize our volunteers and especially our Voter Service chairs for leading these efforts: Judy Merrill for Pros and Cons, Mary Weinstein and Megan Chenoweth for Candidate Forums, Judi Bank for EVG distribution, Kathleen Cha and Alec MacDonald for the Oakland Easy Voter Guide, and Allene Warren for Voter Registration. And now for a well-deserved but brief rest.

November Election Voter Service Activities

Thanks to Many, Many Volunteers

Many thanks are due the many League members who contributed their time to Voter Service during this very busy election cycle. You will notice many names listed more than once; thanks especially to those who offered their services in multiple ways. If there are any names omitted by mistake, please accept our apologies and thanks for your service.

Candidate Forums
As usual, the League was in great demand during this mayoral election cycle. Mary Weinstein, with the able and omnipresent assistance of Megan Chenoweth, who took over while Mary was away on a long-planned vacation right in the middle of Forum season, facilitated five Mayoral Forums, three District Council Forums, and two Forums for the various other local elective offices on the ballot. Helping at the events themselves as timekeepers, question collectors and sorters were: Polly Amrein, Nancy Auker, Judi Bank, Mary Bergan, Meg Bowerman, Marisel Brown, Megan Chenoweth, John Chenoweth, Michael Coleman, Sandra Coleman, Katherine Gavzy, Annmarie Hallin, Ted Hullar, Ann Killebrew, Jennifer Kirk, Terry Kulka, Suzanne Loosen, Judy Merrill, Jerry Merrill, Blair Miller, Debbie Mills, Rosalee Schubert, Keiko Shimada, Susan Veit, Mary Weinstein, and Iris Winogrond. Extremely able moderators were: Michael Coleman, Sandra Coleman, Mony Flores-Bauer, Bonnie Hamlin, Earl Hamlin, Helen Hutchison, Theresa Nelson, and Kate Quick of LWV Alameda. All our support at the Forums was very much appreciated, whether we were co-presenters or supplied other services.

Because there were so many Mayoral Forums this election and so many candidates at each Forum, Helen Hutchison researched various formats used successfully by different Leagues in the U.S. The formats we chose were all very successful with the large number of candidates at each Forum. At each Forum the Membership Committee had a representative. They were: Meg Bowerman, Kathy Collup, Lorraine Force, Annmarie Hallin, and Yolanda Schonbron. Their presence at an LWVO table covered with League material was a very visible indication of the quality of who we are and what we do as well as a friendly invitation to join us.

Pros and Cons
Once again the League presented neutral pros and cons on the ballot propositions to over 1,200 people at 42 sites around Oakland, including three in Spanish. Although the state League continues to have Pros and Cons available online, it no longer prints them. This election, the Board chose to use some of our Ed Funds to print state Pros and Cons (with the local Easy Voter Guide proposition information attached) for distribution by our speakers. The intrepid speakers included: Mary Bergan, Meg Bowerman, Megan Chenoweth, Mony Flores-Bauer, Katherine Gavzy, Earl Hamlin, Ann Killebrew, Rosalie Masuda, Marion Taylor, and Julie Waldman, with Judy Merrill coordinating.

Local Easy Voter Guide
Previously, Helen Hutchison very capably organized the production of our Oakland Easy Voter Guide, but this year the state League needed her more than we did and so Kathleen Cha agreed to manage the process. After many meetings with Helen to learn the ins and outs, Kathleen and her team produced 10,000 English, 3,000 Spanish, and 3,000 Chinese in record time and within the budget available from our League's Ed Fund (translated, that means donations from members like you). The production was professionally coordinated by Alec McDonald, the editor of the LWV Bay Area newsletter, with text for local measures provided by Mary Bergan. Sandy Venning and Mary Bergan helped facilitate the focus group from Oakland's Next Step Learning, whose comments improved the readability of the original English text. Mony Flores-Bauer reviewed the draft Spanish language Oakland EVG and provided clarifications/corrections to the text. At the last minute the Board requested additional candidate entries, and Kathleen and Alec graciously ran with the ball. The resulting EVG was very well received by everyone. Kudos to the whole team, and especially to Kathleen for taking on a task she had never been involved with and doing a magnificent job.

Easy Voter Guide Distribution
Judi Bank outdid herself, sorting and organizing the distribution to 63 sites of 3,300 state and 16,000 local Easy Voter Guides. Driving all over Oakland to help with the distribution were: Judi Bank, Peter Bank, Karen Eagle, Katherine Gavzy, Annmarie Hallin, Karen Ivy, Bruce Jacobs, Eleanor Luce, Allene Warren, and Iris Winogrond. In addition, Judi phoned all the sites that order directly from the state to remind them to do so and clarify how many local EVG they would need.

Smart Voter
The League's excellent website, Smartvoter.org, is a treasure trove of information and links to even more information that voters might want or need to know (like where their voting place is). Its champion has been and still is Bonnie Hamlin, with Jim Ferguson our local "man on the job." While Jim took a vacation during September, Louise Nathe very ably filled in for him. Kudos to all three for a superb resource.

Voter Registration
Allene Warren has been providing materials and some instruction to community-based organizations who are doing their own registration. She will be working on a way to capture areas where our registration efforts would be most productive. In the meantime, she gathered a crew for the usual and popular Midnight Madness, our down-to-the-deadline voter registration at the Rockridge Safeway on October 18. Those involved were: Judy Cox, Mony Flores-Bauer, Ruth Hafter, Judy Merrill, Rosalee Schubert, and Allene Warren.

Registration Affidavit Boxes
Peter Bank has been ably organizing the affidavit boxes team, whose task is to check on and resupply registration forms to boxes as needed at 70 sites spread all over Oakland at least every two weeks. Peter then reports their data on a regular basis, and for this project the Oakland League earns money. These faithful box watchers are: Polly Amrein, Nancy Auker, Karen Engel, Denise Fleig, Bonnie Hamlin, Helen Hutchison, Miriam Laska, Barbara Newcombe, Mary Stevens, Mary Strauss, Allene Warren, and Bev Solo. Many thanks to all of them for doing such a good service for Oakland's citizens as well as bringing much needed money into the Oakland League.

Election Day Office Phone Bank
Every election day voters suddenly realize they're missing important information and call the League office in desperation, not knowing where else to go for help. This year we have members on duty from 7 am to 8 pm to answer their calls. Those responding to the request for support by the office coordinator, Bonnie Hamlin, were: Leslie Anderson, Kathleen Cha, Kathy Collop, Lorraine Force, Gretchen Hayes, and Ann Killebrew, with Megan Chenoweth as stand-by.

LWVO Greets International Visitors

In September, four Oakland League members had the pleasure of meeting with a group of African politicians and journalists who were visiting the Bay Area as a part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. The group featured 15 visitors from 11 different countries -- Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia.

For the first half of the 90 minute meeting, the League members in attendance (Suzanne Loosen, Katherine Gavzy, Echa Schneider, and Judy Merrill) described the League's activities to the group. We shared with them copies of our local Easy Voter Guide and "Who Represents Oakland" brochure. Many of the visitors seemed shocked at the large number of local elected officials. We also described our efforts to register voters, as well as our Pros & Cons presentations about ballot measures and candidate forums. Several visitors were very interested in how we accomplish keeping the candidate forums neutral, and we are sending them DVD copies of several forums so that can see how it works in practice.

For the second half of the visit, we answered questions from the group. Many of the visitors were very surprised, given our name, that we did not place any special emphasis on getting women elected to office or advocating for laws that required a minimum percentage of elected officials to be women, which is common in many emerging democracies. We assured them that even though this is not our focus, there are plenty of other organizations that do have that mission.

Other questions focused on how we are able to support our activities. When we explained that we relied on donations and volunteers for our work, they seemed very surprised and mused that finding people willing to work for free would be extremely difficult in their countries.

While questions like these highlighted the differences between our cultures, others revealed similarities. One visitor asked what we do to attract younger members, complaining that she found it very difficult to engage young people back home. We acknowledged that we have similar problems, and another of the visitors chimed in to share some of the strategies his organization has found successful in attracting youth. One example her gave involved throwing free concerts with popular musicians and requiring people to show they were registered to vote in order to be admitted.

Overall, the brief visit was enjoyable and enlightening for both ides.

Hot Topic:

Nonpartisan and Political: The League in Action

When the League of Women Voters speaks, people listen. After the election the League will continue to address the issues that affect all levels of government.

How does the League decide when to become involved? Come hear how the League chooses, examines, and acts on issues that matter to our communities.

Monday, December 6 - 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Redwood Heights Community Center
3883 Aliso Avenue
(Off Redwood Road below Highway 13)

AAUW - Oakland-Piedmont Branch

Advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research

Join us to hear Arcelia Hurtado Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates

Saturday, November 13 - 10 a.m - 12 noon
Italian Colors
2220 Mountain Blvd.
510 482-8094

http://www.aauw-op.com

VoiceMail: 510-287-9855

This is part of a series of ads from AAUW-Oakland Piedmont Branch. In exchange, they are printing notice of LWVO activities in their newsletter

Mayoral Forum at Kaiser Center

The League cosponsored a very successful mayoral forum with the Bay Area Business Roundtable and Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce on September 23. Martin Reynolds, Editor of the Oakland Tribune, was the moderator. A panel of local journalists asked questions of the candidates. There was a standing room only crowd in the auditorium, and many members of the local press covered the event. The League was responsible for organizing the event, and for suggesting an innovative format that allowed more questions to be asked during a limited time period. Many thanks to all the League members who attended, and special thanks to the volunteers who helped make it a success.

Successful Fall Kick-Off Event

The Oakland League held our Fall program kick-off meeting on October 5 in Hearing Room 3 at Oakland City Hall. More than 50 League members and other members of the public came to hear Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald give a clear and concise explanation of ranked-choice voting, which Oakland will be using for the first time in the November election. Mr. Macdonald's presentation was followed by an informative and balanced discussion of the pros and cons of the nine state propositions and six local measures on the November ballot, led by the Oakland League's own Megan Chenowith. After a lively question and answer session, everyone left feeling optimistic about tackling one of the longest ballots Oaklanders have seen in a long time.

Be sure to check out the notice for the November program meeting on page 1 of this VOTER--we are expecting another great turnout for the November meeting.

National League Speaks Against Secret Money in Political Advertising

Supreme Court Erred, Decision Undermines Basic Pillar of American Democracy

The League of Women Voters of the United States has called on television and radio stations to refuse political advertising paid for with secret money. The League also called for political candidates to repudiate campaign advertising in their races that comes from front groups and organizations that fail to disclose their big donors.

"We are seeing huge sums of money from secret sources going into campaign advertising, much of it the negative advertising that poisons the airways," said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters.

"Millions upon millions upon millions of dollars are being spent secretly in this election and it threatens to drown out the voices of individual voters. Because of changes in the law brought about by recent Supreme Court decisions, there are no disclosure requirements that let the voters know who is paying for the ads," she said. "Voters need to know who is paying - it is a vital part of their decision-making process in deciding whether to believe the ads," she said.

"It's just wrong. Secret campaign cash should have no place in our American democracy," said MacNamara.

"That's why we are calling on media outlets and political candidates to act responsibly. The media should refuse these secretly-funded ads and candidates should repudiate the ads - even if they help the candidate get elected," she said. "Protecting our democracy and the vital role of informed voters is more important than any one election," MacNamara argued.

"We understand that political advertising is very lucrative for media outlets, but we believe the public would be better served in this election season if TV and radio stations required full disclosure of the funders of campaign advertising - and refused such advertising if the sponsor fails to disclose the major funders," she said. "It's not enough to know that an ad was paid for by 'Moms for Apple Pie,' 'Dads for Cherry Pie,' or some other innocuous sounding name. The voters need to know exactly who gave the big money to such organizations to pay for the advertising," MacNamara said.

"Organizations like the national Chamber of Commerce proudly announced their campaign advertising, but then refused to disclose which major corporations are funding the ads. Consumers and voters need to know," MacNamara maintained. "Candidates have to 'stand by their ads.' Big donors should stand up and be counted when they are paying for election advertising."

The League of Women Voters has been calling attention to secret money being spent on political advertising for months, but the U.S. Senate has refused to act to require disclosure, even though the House of Representatives passed a strong disclosure bill which was supported by the League.

Though the Supreme Court recently changed campaign finance law, the Court approved of enhanced disclosure. It said that disclosure is important for "providing the electorate with information." It also supported disclaimer requirements "so that the people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which they are being subjected."

Now we are seeing the largest campaign expenditures in history even as organizations accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from secret sources. Essentially, these organizations are functioning as Political Action Committees but without having to follow laws requiring disclosure of their donors. It should come as no surprise that they lobbied against the DISCLOSE Act in Congress, which would have stopped manipulation of elections by fly-by-night anonymous hit groups, and prevented the infusion of undercover expenditures.

"These activities are directly detrimental to our democracy. Voters deserve to know who is paying for election advertising. The League of Women Voters calls on all candidates to disavow secret advertising and asks media outlets not to accept ads unless the names of the true major donors are made public," MacNamara said.

Membership

Please welcome new member:
Amy Lyons

Save the Date:

Saturday, January 29
Bay Area League Day
See next month's VOTER for details

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."

Click here for the form:.