Making Democracy Work

VOTER-October-2010

Preview of State and Local Ballot Measures

and
Intro to Ranked-Choice Voting

Our Fall Kick-off Event
Tuesday, October 5, 6:00-8:00
Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3
One Frank Ogawa Plaza

(inside the 14th Street entrance to City Hall)

On November 2 we'll be asked to vote on nine state propositions and six local measures covering a range of issues. Join your fellow League members and other interested voters to learn the pros and cons of all these measures, so you can make informed choices as you cast your ballot.

This year, for the first time, Oakland will use Ranked-Choice Voting to elect candidates for local office. Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald will give a short presentation about how Ranked-Choice Voting works. It's not complicated, once you understand it.

This will be an informative and informal meeting with time afterward for Q&A. Light refreshments will be served.

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

October Candidate Forums

LWVO continues to co-sponsor candidate forums through October. Look over the list for those that interest you, invite a friend, and hear the candidates speak on their own behalf and answer audience questions.

Oct. 6, 7-9 pm, City Council District 2
Lakeshore Baptist Church
3534 Lakeshore Ave.
Co-sponsor: Grand Lake Neighbors Association
Oct. 6, 6-8:30, Mayor
Allen Temple Baptist Church
8501 International Blvd.
Co-sponsor: Allen Temple Baptist Church
Oct. 7, 6-8 pm, Mayor
City Hall, Hearing Room 1
One Frank Ogawa Plaza
Co-sponsor: Oakland Cultural Trust
Oct. 14, 7-9 pm, Mayor
College Preparatory School
6100 Broadway
Co-sponsor: Rockridge Community Planning Council
Oct. 21, 6-8 pm, Mayor
Valley Center for Performing Arts
Holy Names University
3500 Mountain Blvd.
Co-sponsors: Holy Names and Bay Area Black Journalists
Oct. 22, 6:30-8:30, City Council District 4
Allendale Recreation Center
3711 Suter Street
Co-sponsors: Laurel District Association, Laurel Village

Co-President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy
In case you hadn't noticed, we are in the midst of an election. You may also have noticed that the corrupting, anti-democratic influence of money, the elephant of American politics, is still very much in the room. But this can be changed. At all levels of government, people have been working to reduce the reliance on big contributors, to enhance accountability and transparency, so elected officials can govern in the interests of the public not their financers, and citizens can make more informed choices.

Nationally, the League and other groups have been fighting hard to get the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to restore transparency to U.S. elections after the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. That decision allowed corporations and wealthy donors to make unlimited contributions to campaign advocacy groups. The DISCLOSE Act would require contributors to these groups and their paid political advertising to be identified. The bill is still stalled in the Senate, and LWVUS President Elisabeth MacNamara says, "This is a failure for which voters will have to pay this November when corporate and other special interests use secret money to influence our elections."

In California last June we tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce public campaign financing to statewide elections with Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act. LWVC, Common Cause, and other like-minded groups are determined to try again. Meanwhile, as League members who want to be fully informed voters, we recommend looking into websites such as Follow the Money, linked to from SmartVoter, our LWVC site, to learn who is providing the funds for ballot measures and candidates across the State.

Oakland provides some public financing of campaigns and has campaign spending limits on candidates, monitored by the Public Ethics Commission (PEC). A recent apparent attempt to manipulate the spending rules in the current mayoral election highlights the importance and value of the PEC. Oakland should be proud to have this body in its city government, and LWVO is proud to have played a major role in its establishment and continuing vitality. Read more about the PEC in this edition of the VOTER. We urge all LWVO members to attend the PEC meetings (see their calendar on the City website) and help keep democracy alive and fair in the City of Oakland.

Community Policing and Violence Prevention: Measure BB

What is Measure Y and why might it need to be changed?<

Measure BB on the November 2 ballot proposes revisions to Measure Y, which Oakland voters approved in
2004. Understanding Measure Y is critical for deciding how to vote on Measure BB.

In 2004, Oakland passed Measure Y, which imposed a parcel tax of $88 to pay for more police officers, firefighters, and violence prevention programs. Measure Y requires that the city employ at least 739 police officers in order to use the Measure Y tax money.

There is controversy about collecting the Measure Y tax when fewer than 739 police officers are employed; court rulings have allowed the city to collect the tax if it has in its budget funding allocated for employing 739 police officers, even if that number is not actually hired. This line was in the budget until July 2010. During that time about $19 million a year was raised, violence prevention programs were funded, and 63 officers were assigned as "problem solving officers" doing community policing.

In July 2010 the budget did not including funding for 739 police officers, and 80 officers were laid off. Most of the problem-solving officers were reassigned and the Measure Y parcel tax does not appear on the property tax bills recently mailed to Oakland homeowners. The Oakland City Council placed Measure BB on the ballot to restore funding for community policing and violence prevention programs. Measure BB removes the requirement that the city adopt a budget providing for at least 739 police officers, thus allowing the city to collect and spend the Measure Y funds. In 2015 both Measure Y and Measure BB expire and so will the parcel tax.

Opponents of Measure BB say that the city has not used the $19 million a year effectively. The City Auditor's report on violence prevention programs funded by Measure Y finds flaws, and there is a general sense that the community policing program has not been effective or well managed.

Supporters say that the city needs the income approved by voters in 2004 to support needed violence prevention and community policing programs during the next five years. The League of Women Voters of Oakland recommends a YES vote on Measure BB in order to help provide the city with adequate revenue to provide the services the community needs.

Oakland Easy Voter Guide Needs Your Financial Support

The English-language version of the EVG is hot off the presses, and a copy is enclosed with this newsletter. The Spanish and Chinese versions will not be far behind, and soon voters all over Oakland will have the opportunity to become more informed about their choices in the coming election.

The Oakland EVG is different from the voter information sent out by the Registrar of Voters in two important ways.

▪ It is carefully written to explain the issues in the simplest possible way; the text is "field-tested" by a focus group of Oaklanders who are not adept readers.

▪ It includes information on all the candidates for Oakland offices (except the ones for special districts) without cost to the candidates. Do you know why some candidates do not have information about themselves in the ROV pamphlet? It's because they have to pay for it. The League's EVG is the main way that candidates with limited funds can get their message out to voters.

So the Oakland EVGs are here, and soon the bills will be rolling in too. Printing, translation, and other costs make this extra long EVG an expensive undertaking. If you haven't yet done so, please send a contribution to LWVO to help cover the production costs.

Please mail your check now to:
LWV Oakland
1305 Franklin Street, Suite 311
Oakland CA 94612-3222
Indicate "For EVG" on the memo section of the check or in a cover note. Because this is a voter education project, your contribution can be tax-deductible if you make the check out to "LWVO Education Fund."

District 4 Candidate Forum: A Volunteer's Perspective

Have you considered volunteering for Voter Service, but weren't sure what to expect? Here's a firsthand account of one volunteer's experience at a candidate forum.

The League's first candidate forum of the election season was held on September 16th. About 200 people met at the Fruitvale Presbyterian Church to hear seven candidates for City Council District 4 discuss issues affecting the city and their district, from the city's upcoming budget shortfalls, to improving accountability in City Hall, to helping Oakland residents in foreclosure, to funding local parks.

This was the second candidate forum I've worked at with the League of Women Voters. Candidate forum volunteers do a variety of tasks. My role was as a question collector, greeting audience members as they arrived, handing out cards for them to write questions for the candidates, and collecting their questions. Question sorters take these questions, sort through them to eliminate duplicates or partisan questions, and identify the ones that seem to be the best fit for the audience's interests. Being a question sorter or question collector is a great opportunity to learn more about the issues of interest to the community. It was fascinating to glance through the question cards and see the wide range of topics that are of concern to Oakland residents.

At the forums, candidates get an opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and describe their qualifications for office. A volunteer moderator introduces them and asks the questions that were sorted by the question sorters. Volunteer timekeepers are also on hand to help candidates keep their responses succinct.

As a candidate forum volunteer, I found it incredibly rewarding to see so many people in attendance, to hear such a wide range of intelligent questions from the audience, and to hear the candidates answer them in a thoughtful, respectful way. I joined the League because I appreciated that the League gives voters an opportunity to interact with their candidates directly, not just through fliers and campaign signs but through real political discourse. When we say that the League does hands-on work to safeguard democracy and promote active, informed participation in government, candidate forums are exactly what we mean. Sound like fun? It's not too late to get involved! There are still a few more forums scheduled for this election season. To volunteer, please contact Mary Weinstein at lwvocandidateforums@gmail.com.

-- by Megan Chenoweth

Be an Advocate for League Positions

The League of Women Voters never endorses candidates, but the League does support and oppose ballot measures based on its positions on issues. As a League member, you can help inform the public about League positions on the measures on the November 2010 ballot, and urge voters to vote those positions when they go to the polls.

Make it personal

Two ways you can help are letters to the editor of print and online publications, and your own personal voter guide to family, friends, and neighbors. Follow the guidelines for letters in individual publications.

Choose a proposition or propositions you feel strongly about. Learn about the issues. A good place to start is http://www.lwvc.org. Follow the links under Advocacy for information, tips, and sample letters. We've all been asked by people who know we follow the issues how they should vote. They will appreciate your help. Use your online and off-line address books. Assume everyone on them will welcome your views. You can simply forward the flyers with League recommendations, but the recommendations will mean even more if you give them your personal touch. If this is your first time doing a personal voter guide, you'll be surprised at the positive feedback you get. When you write, speak for yourself as a concerned and knowledgeable individual, not as a League member or on behalf of the League (that's the job of our copresidents).

The more letters publications get from more individuals, the greater the cumulative impact. If you want some hands-on help, email publicity@lwvoakland.org.

National League Urges Senate to Ratify START Treaty

League President Elisabeth MacNamara sent a letter to the Senate urging members to ratify the START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which was signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in April 2010. Lobby Corps members are visiting key Senate offices this month to support ratification of the START Treaty.

United Nations Flag Raising Ceremony And Parade

Saturday, October 23, 11 am
Jack London Square (Foot of Broadway at the waterfront)

You're invited to attend this free, colorful annual event celebrating 65 years of humanitarian and peacekeeping work by the United Nations. Organized by the United Nations Association + East Bay.

With 2010 declared International Year of Youth, featured guests will include:

▪ Oakland Schools JROTC International Flag Bearers

▪ Oakland Interfaith Youth Gospel Choir

▪ UNA-USA National Essay Contest Winner award-winner Kathy Pham

Public transit includes ferry from SF, BART to Oakland City Center plus AC bus 72.
More Information: 510-891-8009

Change in LWVO Board Meeting Location

Because of unresolved labor issues at Piedmont Gardens, the Board has temporarily changed the location of its monthly meetings. In October and November the meeting will be held in the common room at Swan's Market Co-Housing, at 930 Clay Street. If you wish to attend, contact Katherine Gavzy for access instructions. Her contact information is in the LWVO Membership Directory

Oakland Public Ethics Commission Seeks Applicants

The City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission (PEC) is accepting applications from qualified individuals for the position of Commissioner. The Public Ethics Commission consists of seven members--three nominated for appointment by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and four selected by the Commission as a whole. Commissioners receive no compensation and may serve no more than one consecutive three-year term.

The Commission was created by a voter-approved City Charter amendment in 1996 to "assure fairness, openness, honesty and integrity in City government." It is responsible for administering and enforcing various City laws and for annually adjusting City Council salaries. The Commission is currently seeking applications to fill two of the Commission-selected seats. The terms will begin on January 22, 2011, and expire on January 21, 2014.

Application Deadline is Friday, October 29, 2010.

DUTIES
▪ Attend monthly PEC meetings and one or more committee meetings

▪ Oversee compliance with the Oakland Campaign Reform Act, Oakland Sunshine Ordinance, Limited Public Financing Act, Code of Conduct for City Officials, Conflict of Interest regulations, Lobbyist Registration Act, and Oakland False Endorsement In Campaign Literature Act.

▪ Review ethics laws and recommend amendments to the City Council

▪ Develop informational, training, and public outreach programs concerning the Commission's activities

▪ Annually adjust City Council salaries To learn more about the PEC and requirements for serving, click here

To request an application or more information, send email to ethicscommission@oaklandnet.com or call Executive Director Daniel Purnell at 510-238-3593. LWVO was instrumental in founding the PEC and our members have served on the Commission and observe its meetings regularly. Barbara Newcombe served on the Commission 2000-2003, and continues to be an observer. She would be happy to talk with you if you are interested in serving. You may reach her at barbaranewcombe@sbcglobal.net, or 510-763-4406.

National League Advocacy

League Urges House Leaders to Support Office of Congressional Ethics

The League and coalition partners sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Boehner urging them to make a public commitment to the American people to support the continuation of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as well as to oppose any efforts to prevent the OCE from effectively carrying out its mission and basic responsibilities. The coalition also thanked Speaker Pelosi for her leadership in establishing the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2008.

Membership Update

Welcome New Members

Larry Bowerman
John Chenoweth
John Creighton
Amy De Reyes
Sandra Eakins
Betsy Ferguson
Marilyn Handis
Megan Mills
Emily Montan
Susan Montauk
Mark Norburg
Rebecca Overacre
Kathleen Russell

Welcome Back

Betty Colquhoun
Gregg Schwinn

New Education Committee

It all started with two League members sharing their grandchildren's experiences in their local school districts. Conversations at gatherings in members' homes developed, discussing ways of volunteering in their families' classrooms. Now, a group of LWVO members--grandparents, parents, educators--has started a new committee on education.

Committee's Purpose

The purpose of the newly formed committee is to study the new OUSD Strategic Vision: Building the Plan Together. The League has had a position supporting local education measures dating back to 1980. The committee will examine many new measures within the district's new plan.

Valuable Experiences

Most of us agree that improving our local public schools is of vital importance. All interested individuals are invited to join us in this effort. The committee hopes to meet once a month, enjoying good discussions while contributing to the study of the OUSD plan.

For further information please contact Yolanda Schonbrun at 510-316-5052, or yoschteach@yahoo.com.

Help LWVO Expand Our Membership

The election season, with its many candidate forums and Proposition Pros and Cons, is an excellent time for LWVO to expand its membership. You can help, and it's easy! Just invite your friends and neighbors to our events. When people see the League in action, they are often interested in joining.

Going to some events on your own? Reach out to those around you. People like to join productive organizations, but they also like to join friendly ones. By being hospitable to the people around you, you are making the League a welcoming place, one others might want to join.