Making Democracy Work

VOTER November 2011

Is The California Initiative Process Working For You?

November Program

Many believe the referendum and initiative processes no longer work effectively for a majority of California citizens. At the California LWV convention last May delegates voted study the Initiative and Referendum process in California.

Trudy Schafer, Senior Director for Program with the League of Women Voters of California, will discuss the State League's current position on the referendum and initiative processes, as well as the State League's new study designed to determine whether and how to update the position.

Come hear how you can join with other Oakland League members to get involved in this important study and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, November 15
6:00 -- 7:30
Oakland City Hall, Officer John Hege Hearing Room
One Frank Ogawa Plaza
(to the left just inside the 14th Street entrance to City Hall)

Light refreshments will be served.
BART: Exit at the 12th Street/City Center Station
Parking: Street parking (metered until 6 PM); Clay Street Garage at 1414 Clay Street

For further information about the Initiative and Referendum process, go to the California League website:

Last Minute Reminder

Education Forum Part 3 Saturday, November 5

The final session for LWVO member participation in the national LWV study on the role of the federal government in public education. Click here for detaile

President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy

Did you know that October 10, 1911, the date when women won the right to vote in California, was also the date when the state adopted the initiative and referendum process? Two steps were taken at the same time toward broader participation and more direct democracy. Both of these fundamental reforms, of course, had unexpected consequences: the passage of Prohibition, one of the biggest mistakes in American history, was in some part due to the growing political influence of women; the overuse and abuse of initiatives has added to voter cynicism and apathy. State League is looking at improvements needed to bring the initiative and referendum process back to the original intentions of its drafters. Learn more about this and how you can get involved at our November 15th program.

The current State constitution affirms "All political power is inherent in the people." This came home to me a few days ago at Oakland's City Hall (under construction, by the way, during that same year of 1911), while observing the City Council's Rules Committee meeting. Helen Hutchison and I, proudly wearing our LWVO buttons, were the only people in the room besides the councilmembers and city staff. Our presence as Observers tells our elected officials, "We are watching you." We also are the League's early warning system; we look for issues that may call for LWVO action. The Observer corps is one of LWVO's most essential activities. It serves our goal of working for local government that is representative, open, honest and effective. You will read more about the need for Observers in this edition of the VOTER, and I urge you to sign up to observe the Public Ethics Commission or another City body whose work interests you; consider Parks and Recreation or Public Safety, for example. It is also a great way to learn more about the actual day-to-day workings of city government, the issues that affect our daily lives in Oakland. If you want to try it out, contact

That morning at Rules Committee the routine business was briefly interrupted by the arrival of a teacher and her third grade class. They had come on a field trip to see their City Hall and to watch city government in action. They were welcomed and honored by the council members and then proceeded outside to meet the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators camped on the lawn. I hope those children grow up believing that politics do matter and that indeed "all political power is inherent in the people."

Oakland Special Vote by Mail Election

See the Pros and Cons included with this VOTER for a discussion of the three measures on the Oakland ballot. The Pros and Cons are also available on line at

Mail early! Ballots must be received by November 15.

The Board of LWVO has adopted the following positions on the ballot measures on the November ballot:
Measure H Elected City Attorney: No Position
Measure I Temporary Parcel Tax: Neutral
Measure J Deadline for funding discontinued Police and Fire Retirement Plan: No Position

Note: No Position means that the LWV has no policy position that can be used to justify taking a position on the measure; Neutral means that there are relevant positions on both sides, and the board cannot reach a consensus on which side has the stronger argument. The Board weighed the LWVC position supporting government "...revenues...enough to meet changing needs" against our local position calling for an effective and transparent budget process, which we did not think Oakland has followed. Therefore we chose to remain neutral on Measure I.

California LWV Update Study on the Initiative and Referendum Process

At the LWVC Convention of 2011 delegates voted to study an update of our existing position on the Initiative and Referendum Process in California. LWVO was one of the local Leagues to support an update. We have all seen the unfortunate results of poorly conceived ballot initiatives.

The Statewide study committee has begun its work. Members of the committee have adopted a study scope, budget, and tentative timeline. They are responsible for developing the study material that all local Leagues in California will use to come to consensus. The consensus meetings will be in late 2012 or early 2013--after the 2012 presidential election.

The group also agreed to create community education and outreach materials as part of its work with the help of some as-yet-undefined grant money.

There are multiple ways to find out more about the study and to join in the ongoing discussion. A good starting point is a page on the California League's website, where the study committee will provide a continually updated list of articles and reading materials. There is also a Facebook group (League of Women Voters of California Initiative and Referendum Study).

If you are interested in working on this study here in Oakland contact Helen Hutchison,

LWVO Board Highlights

At its October meeting LWVO Board members heard from the LWVO committees. Among the highlights:

Voter Service has received 32 requests from the community for Pros and Cons speakers. Pros and Cons flyers have been printed and distributed throughout the city; they are also on the LWVO website.

Action Committee presented for Board approval two letters: one to the mayor and city council requesting more transparency and community input in the budget process, and one to the City Clerk requesting that better election information be placed on the city website. Katherine Gavzy stressed the need for League observers to monitor city meetings to assure transparency.

President Katherine Gavzy updated us on news from the national and state Leagues. The national League is beginning a study on the privatization of government services; the California League is launching an update study on initiative and referendum processes.

Next meeting will be November 14 at St. Paul's Towers. All LWVO members are welcome to attend.

National LWV Education Study: The Federal Role in Public Education

On October 1, the LWVO met for the second of three Education Study forums. The focus for consensus questions at this meeting was the National Common Core Standards and Assessments. These Standards and Assessments describe and evaluate the skills and knowledge students in grades K-12 will master in order to prepare them for college and career. The Common Core Standards are not federally mandated, but have been adopted by all but two states, so are considered national in scope.

There was a lively discussion guided by consensus facilitator Mony Flores-Bauer. All the participants wanted to agree on what is best for our students in public education--and thus best for the future of our democracy.

The final forum for LWVO participation in the national LWV education study will consider consensus questions on funding and equity issues, including funding for the education of disadvantaged children and funding for early childhood education. Background articles have been available at previous forums and can be found on the LWVO website: You are also welcome to contact Education Committee member Jane Klein at (510) 393-8367 for help getting the background reading materials.

Saturday, November 5, 10am to noon
West Auditorium of the Main Library (125 14th Street, between Madison and Oak Streets)
Refreshments will be available
Free parking in the lot at the corner of 13th and Madison across from the ground floor entrance to the auditorium.

Top Secret Rosies: the Female Computers of World War II

AAUW Oakland-Piedmont Branch presents:

In 1942, when computers were human and women were underestimated, a group of female mathematicians helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age. Sixty-five years later their story has finally been told. In 2003 LeAnn Erickson was interviewing two women for her documentary about a woman-owned real estate agency that helped to peacefully integrate a Philadelphia neighborhood. She learned that long before the sisters were businesswomen, community activists, mothers or grandmothers, they were recruited by the U.S. military to do ballistics research. The weapons trajectories they calculated were passed out to soldiers in the field and bombardiers in the air. Some of their colleagues went on to program the earliest of general-purpose computers, the ENIAC.

Erickson turned this tantalizing fact into a second documentary, "Top Secret Rosies: the Female Computers of World War II," which will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15 in the Glass Lounge of the Paul J. Cushing Library at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd. in Oakland. The event, sponsored by the Oakland-Piedmont Branch of AAUW, is free and open to the public. Directions to Holy Names and a campus map are available at If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Adams at

The paper VOTER says this is on Wednesday, November 15th. The correct date is Tuesday, November 15th

Working to End the Death Penalty in California

A statewide coalition, Taxpayers for Justice, recently filed the SAFE California Act to place an initiative on the November 2012 ballot to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, saving $1 billion over the next five years. A portion of the tax dollars saved would be used to create the SAFE California Fund to invest in local law enforcement in order to reduce the number of unsolved murders and rapes in California.

The League of Women Voters of the United States supports ending the death penalty. The League of Women Voters of California has endorsed the campaign to gather signatures for the SAFE California Act. The seven Leagues in Alameda County are participants in the Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

League members wanting to end the death penalty in California should consider working on the signature-gathering campaign which will continue through March 2012. Training sessions for signature gathering began in October. If you are interested in volunteering with the SAFE California Campaign, please sign up here:.

--Marion Taylor, LWV representative to Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Making Democracy Work Awards Nominations Sought

Each year at the All-City Luncheon in April, LWVO announces the winners of the Making Democracy Work awards. They are usually given to one individual and one organization in Oakland that have, in the League tradition, helped to make Oakland strong, vibrant, and fair.

Previous awards have gone to non-profits, businesses that have improved their communities, and individuals who have taken leadership roles in initiating and sustaining community projects.

Nominations are sought from the community and from LWVO members. If you would like to nominate someone for this award you can find the nomination form at the LWVO Web site:

Deadline for nominations is Friday, December 16th.

Next Hot Topic: Transit Oriented Development

Monday, December 5
6:30 - 8:00 p.m
. TransForm Conference Room
436 14th Street, Suite 600
(corner of 14th and Broadway, near 12th Street/ City Center BART station)

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.

California Women's Suffrage Centennial Parade

October 2, 2011

A glorious sunny day at Lake Merritt, and the Suffragists were marching again, this time to celebrate 100 years of voting rights for California women.

This time, they were honored by a plethora of politicians, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Jean Quan, and many others.

Public Ethics Commission Needs LWVO Support

The Public Ethics Commission (PEC) is in danger of being severely weakened by impending budget cuts. This is important for the League because open government is one of our core positions. We must publicly show our support. We must also send an Observer to Commission meetings. The Oakland League was intimately involved in the birth of PEC; it needs our continued efforts to survive.

The core of Oakland's Public Ethics Commission is the Sunshine Ordinance, which gives Oakland muscle to enforce open meetings and open records. "Sunshine" has come a long way to making the dream of open government a reality. Meetings of public agencies must be conducted in public. Agendas must be available and posted ten days in advance of meetings. Public records requests must be answered to the extent mandated by the California Public Records Act and with a measure of promptness not before made clear. Lobbyists must be registered.

Because of the efforts of the PEC some public financing for certain local political offices has been made available so as to reduce the need for candidates to raise buckets of money. The Campaign Reform Act attempts to limit amounts candidates can receive from big donors. These are still "works in progress," and they are not the end of PEC responsibilities.

It is ominous that recent budget cuts have reduced PEC funding to one position, that of Executive Director, with no clerical support. Complaints brought before the Commission entail a great deal of work. It is difficult to see how our Public Ethics Commission, brought to life by a determined LWVO, can survive in any meaningful way.

The long time Executive Director has recently retired and a new Executive Director has yet to be appointed. A dangerous load of pending complaints and unresolved issues needing action will put the new Director in a difficult situation. There must be action now before this backlog degrades the Commission's effectiveness.

At the absolute least, there must be two dedicated Observers for PEC meetings. It is not always possible for one person to attend all regular, committee, and special meetings, hence the need for two to share the responsibility. Meetings are not exciting. Rarely is there anyone in the audience. Discussion hangs on complicated legal details. But these details are the building blocks for an open government. That Oakland is finally close to having a usable records management program is solely due to endless nagging by the Public Ethics Commission. The Oakland League must step up and demand life support for our Ethics Commission.

-- Barbara Newcombe

Become an LWVO Observer

If you would like more information about being an Observer of the PEC, or any other board or commission, please send an email to:, or

The Team behind this Election's Pros and Cons

This election the entire Pros and Cons is a local product! Researchers included Helen Hutchison (Meas. H), Rachel Kahn-Hut (Meas. I), Joey Hansell (Meas. J) and Mary Bergan. Mary also edited and created the final text in pros and cons format before sending it to Kathleen Cha, who readied it for the printer in record time. Our printer, Nancy Dunlap at West Coast Arts, also stretched herself to complete the job before the weekend so our speakers would have copies to distribute after their talks.

Be a Voice for the League

Are you comfortable using a telephone answering machine?

Do you like to talk with League members and the public who have questions about upcoming League programs, elections, political issues?

Would you like to volunteer in the League office for an hour or two one afternoon a week, or every other week?

Long-time office volunteer Gretchen Hayes is taking a break from her Wednesday afternoons at 1305 Franklin St., #311, and has asked me to find a replacement for her.

We know she's irreplaceable, but .....

Call Bonnie if you'd like to know more about being an office volunteer or are willing to become one.

Bonnie Hamlin + Office Coordinator (510) 658-6212

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."

Join here.

Membership News

Welcome New Members
Nancy Dunlap
Miranda Perry

Changes to the Roster
Polly Amrein
Sara Barz
Katherine Oberle
Bertha Reilly
Susan Schroeder

Details are in the paper VOTER

Have You Renewed Your Membership fir 2011-2012?

Check the date on the mailing label of your VOTER. If the date is lower than 8/31/2011, we do not have a record that you have renewed, and your membership has expired.

We don't want to lose you; mail the form on this page with your check to the League office or call the office to have the renewal form and Interest Survey sent to you. Or use the Join Us function on the Web site:.

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