Making Democracy Work

October 2011 VOTER

Mysteries of the Ballot Revealed

October Program

Pros and Cons of Oakland's Fall Ballot Measures
and
New Procedures for the June Statewide Ballot
Tuesday, October 11
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)

This fall Oakland voters will vote on a new parcel tax, on a proposal to change from an elected to an appointed City Attorney, and on funding of a public employee retirement plan. Join other League members and the public for an informative and balanced discussion of the pros and cons of these local measures. Then Helen Hutchison will lead a discussion of effects of redistricting and the open primary in the statewide election in spring 2012.

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

President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy

As we get ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in California, I keep thinking about a photo from a historical slide show we saw at the State League convention last spring: a sign posted in an apartment window that read "A woman who lives here has just exercised her constitutional right to vote." I picture this anonymous woman, returning from her first visit to a polling place in a mood of quiet awe, and proudly putting up the sign. The right to vote is too often taken for granted these days. We need reminders like this to remember how precious it is and how hard the fight was to win it. Until shamefully recently, it was still a hard fight for many Americans. Those of us who grew up during the civil rights era will never forget the courage of the young people who travelled South to register voters. We knew that while it was important to sit-in at lunch counters and on buses, to vote was the single most empowering act. New citizens know this too : in August our Voter Registration chair Allene Warren, along with LWVO volunteers and folks from other organizations, went to the Paramount Theater to register the new citizens coming out of their swearing-in ceremony.

We have a right to vote, but we also have a responsibility to be informed voters. At the October 11th Program Meeting League speakers will explain the upcoming Oakland ballot measures and will tell us what to expect in the statewide elections next spring. Ballot measures can be complicated and tricky, so read the ballot pamphlet you will receive in the mail and come to the meeting prepared for questions and discussion.

Meanwhile, our participation in the national League study on the role of the federal government in public education continues through October and November. If you missed the first meeting, you can still attend the second and third; see the related article in this VOTER, check out the links to the reading material on the League website, and come let your voice be heard.

The founders of the League of Women Voters knew that winning the vote was not the end of the struggle, it was only the beginning. From the start their purpose was to build a nation of informed and involved citizens, and it remains our purpose to this day. To quote the suffragist Alice Paul, "When you put your hand to the plow, you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row."

Oakland Special Vote by Mail Election

Early in October you will receive your ballot for the City of Oakland Special Vote by Mail Election. The ballot will include information about the three measures on the ballot.

Measure H. Shall the Oakland City Charter be amended to return the City Attorney to an appointed position?

Measure I. Shall the City of Oakland establish a five year temporary fiscal emergency parcel tax to preserve essential city services, including fire, police services, and police technology, youth violence prevention, library, services, parks and recreation, and street repair, by establishing an $80 parcel tax for single-family homes and specified amounts for multi-family and commercial properties with an exemption for low-income households?

Measure J. Shall the Charter be amended to allow the City of Oakland to change the deadline for fully funding its Police and Fire Retirement Plan to a new financially responsible deadline?

The Registrar of Voters will begin opening and counting ballots on November 4; ballots must be received by November 15.

You may register to vote in this election through October 31.

LWVO Voter Service committee will present an impartial Pros and Cons meeting on Tuesday, October 11, at City Hall. click here for details. It will also offer Pros and Cons presentations as requested by organizations throughout Oakland. A pamphlet of Pros and Cons points of view will be available at the October 11 meeting and other meetings, and will be distributed with the November Voter. The Pros and Cons will also be posted on the LWVO Web site early in October.

Vote with the League

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.

LWVO Board Notes

What are Board member responsibilities? Every member of the LWVO Board serves on a number of committees and shares the work needed to accomplish our goals. In addition, at our monthly meetings we focus attention on general areas where we feel the League can and should make a difference. We also work on ways to keep our League itself strong and effective.

This year we are putting a lot of energy into building our membership. The Membership Committee, under Louise Rothman-Riemer, has reached out in a variety of ways to attract new members and inspire the involvement of old ones. Over the past 12 months we have gained many new members. Unfortunately, we have also lost a number. Our goal is a net membership gain by January of 5%.

In addition, this year the Board is hoping to identify and provide training to new leaders. People who show enthusiasm for the work of the LWVO are encouraged to be come more involved. Learning by assisting current leaders in their tasks is probably the best way to gain confidence. In addition, the national LWV offers free "webinars" to build the skills and knowledge of League leaders. These are in part funded by the endowed fund of the Nikki Harris Online Training Series. Nikki was a passionate LWVO member who died in 2010.

If you would like to become more involved in the work of the League, please contact any member of the Board, or leave a message at the office: 510 834-7640.

National LWV Education Study

The Federal Role in Public Education

Delaine Easton, California Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1995 to 2003, was the keynote speaker for September's Fall Kick-off program on the national LWV education study, "The Role of the Federal Government in Public Education". Her insightful and passionate remarks about the state of public education in California followed by comments from an equally engaged audience laid the ground work for the consensus questions that followed.

The Education Committee, lead by Chairperson Yolanda Schonbrun, was gratified by the turnout of more than 40 members and guests. One participant joined the LWVO at the forum and we hope others will join at future forums so they can participate in the consensus process.

Upcoming dates and topics are:
▪ Saturday, October 1--Forum 2: Common Core Standards and Assessments.
▪ Saturday, November 5--Forum 3: Equity and Funding for Public Education; including funding for Disadvantaged Children and Early Childhood Education.

There are specific consensus questions for each forum and with the help of a facilitator the members will discuss the questions and try to reach an agreement. Everyone is encouraged to read the background papers before each forum. The papers were in the folders given out on September 10th and can also be found on the LWVO web site

Forums will be held in the West Auditorium of the Main Library (125 14th Street, between Madison and Oak Streets) from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Refreshments will be available. There will be free parking in the lot at the corner of 13th and Madison across from the ground floor entrance to the library auditorium.

Economics of the Death Penalty

Dinner Meeting Series
Monday, October 3, 2011, 6 - 7:30 PM
Buttercup Grill, 229 Broadway at 3rd Street, Oakland
Economics of the Death Penalty:
Coming to a Ballot Near You Soon

Presenters: Natasha Minsker, Death Penalty Policy Director, ACLU of Northern CA
Chelsea Bond, Program Coordinator, CA Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Co-sponsored by American Association of University Women, Black Women Organized for Political Action, Emerge California, League of Women Voters of Oakland,
Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

On August 25, 2011, State Senator Loni Hancock was forced to withdraw her bill SB 490 from consideration by the California Legislature. The bill would have replaced the death penalty with permanent imprisonment, closed Death Row and converted death penalty sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. "The votes were not there to support reforming California's expensive and dysfunctional death penalty system," Senator Hancock said.

But a few days later the SAFE California Campaign announced a ballot initiative for the 2012 general election that will do what state lawmakers won't do: abolish the California death penalty. "The death penalty system in California is broken and there is growing support for this change including from law enforcement," said Jeanne Woodford, former San Quentin Prison Warden who oversaw four executions during her tenure. "Over a hundred current and former law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges and corrections officers have already signed in support of replacing the death penalty with an effective alternative." Come to the program and learn about the SAFE California Act, what happened to SB 490, as well as the status of the death penalty in the US.

Please plan to arrive by 6pm so you can order your dinner before the program begins.
For more information, call Program Co-Chair Ellen Augustine, 510-428-1832, ellenaugustine@earthlink.net; or Co-Chair Miriam Rokeach, 510-658-3805, miriamrokeach@gmail.com

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. These awards 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 for this award 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: http://www.lwvoakland.org

Deadline for nominations is Friday, December 16th.

Hot Topic for October: Oakland's Budget Process

Producing the budget for the City of Oakland is for most of us an exercise cloaked in mystery. How much of the ongoing crisis is temporary? How much is structural? How can the budgetmaking process be made more transparent and more easily understood by the public?

Monday, October 24
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

Celebrate women's gaining the vote with fanfare and frolic and a parade!

When: Sunday, October 2, 11a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Meet at the Lakeside Park Bandstand between Bellevue and Lake Merritt, near Fairyland.

Who: Many organizations are working together on this event, and everyone is welcome to participate. There is no fee, though donations are welcome to help defray costs. Come in costume or not; just a big hat or a sash will put you in the mood. White, purple and gold are the colors of the suffrage movement, and purple sashes will be available for sale at the event. Women, men and supervised children are all welcome.

What: After words of welcome the parade will begin. It will be less than a mile on paved surfaces; a portion of the route will be along Grand Avenue. Upon our return to the Bandstand there will be more brief speeches, followed by a free ice cream social for parade participants, generously supported by Fenton's Creamery and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. Pick up your tickets before the parade.

For more information email CentennialParade@aol.com, call the League office at 834-7640, or go to www.waterfrontaction.org/parade/

Legislative Interview with State Senator Loni Hancock

Representatives from three of the Alameda County Leagues--Piedmont, Oakland, and LWVBAE-- that are located within State Senator Loni Hancock's District 9 met with her July 8 at her Oakland offices. Our interview with Senator Hancock was joined by Nathan Rapp, a member of her staff.

Here is a summary of Senator Hancock's answers to questions that the State League asked local Leagues to pose to our legislative representatives. Thanks to Tam Hege of LWV Piedmont for her summary of the meeting on which this article was based.

Q. The governor has proposed a package of budget cuts, increased revenue, realignment of services and funding between state and local government, and some one-time fixes. What is your evaluation of this proposal?

Since the budget was finally passed, Senator Hancock's comments related to the frustrating process when Republicans would not vote for either a tax election or any additional taxes and Democrats had to pass a budget with no new taxes, some overly optimistic budget projections and some remaining gimmicks. Hancock would like a two year budget with one year devoted to the budget and a second year to concentrate on bills. She is in favor of realignment plans and did support moves to redirect Redevelopment Funds back to schools. She feels that Redevelopment Funds are being used for development that should be self supporting.

She is worried about low income housing and is in favor of legislation that specifically supports low income housing and which is sustainable, green, and pays the prevailing wage during construction. She favors incentives rather than regulations. Senator Hancock is very concerned that the budget cuts public support to $460 for a family of three (doesn't include food stamps, Medi-Cal or housing vouchers) and she was especially concerned about the lack of legislative support for the UC and State University systems. She feels that only at state universities do students of various income levels and backgrounds meet each other, and the schools are the key to California's future.

What proposals do you support to fix the budget process?

Senator Hancock supports passage of taxes and fees by a simple majority. She worked on the majority budget passage but the initiative that causes fees to be subject to 2/3, plus the Proposition 13 requirement for a 2/3 vote for any taxes still makes legislative action on the budget dependent on some Republican support. The good news on this budget, from her point of view: the Democrats did not give in to any Republican requests.

Questions with a focus on SB490

This bill, which Senator Hancock has authored, would eliminate the death penalty in California in exchange for life without possibly of parole. A new report has given the cost for Death Penalty cases at $184 million dollars per year. This is money that could be spent on education and infrastructure. Hancock sits on both the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections & Public Safety and the Public Safety Committee. She feels this gives her a unique position. If the legislation passes out of the legislature and is signed by the governor, it will be placed on the ballot. Obviously there is a lot of work to do to eliminate the death penalty in California.

Regarding Redistricting: Redistricting may result in some women legislators finding themselves in new districts with other women legislators. She thinks that under the new election procedures the top two candidates (probably both Democrats, in most districts) after the primary in California will result in candidates needing more money to be competitive which will give power to special interests.

Regarding Single Payer Health Care, a two-year bill needs to be revised in light of the Federal Affordable Care Act.

Sherry Smith, President, LWVBAE

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Membership

Welcome New Members
Brigid Brahe
Casey Farmer
Carolyn Stanton

Changes to the Roster
We are sorry to report the death of Harold Lawrence in August. Harold was the husband of long-time League member Mary Lawrence, who died in 2009. Our condolences go to his family and friends.

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