President's Message to League Members
A NEW YEAR
What a wild year in our nation! While writing this, the House of Representatives
has voted to formally impeach our elected president. Activists are demonstrating
to force governments and people to reduce carbon gas emissions to mitigate a
climate crisis. 20% of children in our country live in poverty. There is civil unrest
in many countries including Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Hungary, France. The Brits have had a momentous election which will result in their country leaving the EU.
OK, this is depressing and challenging to understand cause and effects, let alone how to make effective change. As we are entering the New Year, I want HOPE!
According to research reported in Forbes, only three people in the United States hold more wealth than the bottom 50% (about 160 million people). In the last 50 years, the increase in the wealth of the top 1% is 100x the growth rate of the wealth of the bottom 50%. The bottom 20% actually have no wealth or are in debt. This state of affairs cries out for major changes.
Where is the hope?? Those three most wealthy individuals in our country get just three votes at the ballot box. Their money may have disproportionate influence, but we can work to make our democracy stronger by:
Encouraging more citizens to register and vote
Continuing to give voters unbiased, informed information about candidates and issues
Helping people to recognize inaccurate or misleading campaign ads and media items.
Our long-used League slogan Make Democracy Work seems more important than ever. The more people vote for representatives they believe will work to improve our systems for the benefit of all should help get us on the right track forward. There's so much more to do in addition to informing voters, but it is a start.
I am so proud of all of our members who have been working hard on voter registration under the leadership of Sara Nicolson. Preparing for the March 3 primary election, Sandy Mory and Martha Beattie are leading teams producing our Candidates’ Forums and Pros and Cons events. Judy Conner is building a team to produce VotersEdge.org for our local contests. Sandy Mory is leading our effort to get the word out about every single resident participating in Census 2020.
The great work done by our strong Action committee chaired by Gloria Chun Hoo and the committees on climate change (Rita Norton) and housing (Roma Dawson) is helping us stay on top of issues so we can effectively lobby our local governments to make changes in accordance with our principles and positions. Many other people in our League work to support our organization's projects: Pat Reardon, Karen Nelson, Julia O'Keefe, Janet Hagquist, Lorraine Myers, Sandy Remmers, Marie Arnold, Virginia Holtz to name just a few. Thanks to all of you!!
Contact me or a committee head if you want to get involved on any project.
Happy New Year to Everyone!
Come help us celebrate the holiday season on Thursday, Dec. 5, 6-8 pm. Every December we have a Holiday Party where we enjoy food and drink and fun conversation. This is a great opportunity to renew League friendships and meet new people. We are so pleased to have several new members join our
organization in the last year. So let’s get together!
OPEN BOARD MEETINGS
We've received a few questions about our board meetings. Your League is managed by a board of directors and four officers who were elected at the Annual Meeting by the membership last June. We generally meet on the first Monday of each month at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits from 11:30 - 2:30. At these meetings, we make decisions about our programs, approve actions or changes, and sometimes just discuss what is happening.
Any member is invited to attend. We only ask that you let me know first and we will send you the board “packet” which includes the agenda and background material for decisions just before the meeting. All in the room are invited to participate in discussions, but only board members will vote on issues in front of us. You can see the approved minutes of past board meetings HERE on our “Members Site” under “Meeting Info”.
Happy Holidays to Everyone! Have a wonderful season with families and friends.
How is open government working today?
At our October Lunch with League, we were honored to hear Bert Robinson, senior editor of the Bay Area News Group (which includes the Mercury News) talk about his efforts to get information from local government departments so the public can know what our government is doing for us.
Our League, along with Mr. Robinson, participated in the Sunshine task force several years ago which gave us a voice (or two) in helping to shape the local laws. He said the Sunshine laws recommended by the task force were mostly enacted by the city council and are working well.
One area that could improve is the ability to get city police reports. A new state law SB1421 (Skinner) should improve access to some of this data. Mr. Robinson has requested city police records pursuant to this law, but so far, this effort has been unsuccessful after a six-month effort. He plans to appeal to the city rules committee to at least get a schedule for the release.
He also announced the special series called “Who Owns Silicon Valley?” which required accessing many records from the assessor’s office, which he praised for being very forthcoming. The first of the series was published on Oct. 27.
Our local democracy is stronger when we have a free press with the resources and ability to help us all watch our government. You can help by supporting our local newspaper.
Don’t miss our next Lunch with League! Register HERE.
We are beginning our annual fundraising drive to raise enough money to support our efforts to make democracy work during the next busy year. We are asking our members and friends of the League for a donation and will be very grateful for any amount. We appreciate all of our members and friends! Donate to the League HERE.
In the last month or two, I’ve had to reach beyond my comfort zone and learn more about subjects I knew little about in order to sign letters to public officials on issues our League cares about. As you can imagine, the climate crisis and the environment often top this list.
Our League has recently written letters on the subjects of:
● “Reach Codes”
● High-speed rail
● Green Stormwater Infrastructure
Read these and all of our letters to public officials HERE.
I also attended a small, productive, meeting of San Jose city staff members and some local environmental activists on the subject of reach codes before the city council voted on the issue. These activists, including our Karen Nelson who works with Climate Reality, were impressive in their commitment to and knowledge of the issues and in their interaction with city staff.
What are “reach codes”, you may ask? The state has set certain minimum standards for construction, but cities have the power and are encouraged to exceed these standards, or “reach” above them.
And that’s what San Jose did a few weeks ago, joining other cities, in the huge effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We congratulate the San Jose City Council for moving the city towards all electric construction for buildings and for requiring more infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Rita Norton has done a wonderful job of explaining this new climate change processes on our new Climate Change page HERE.
We also marched at the youth-led Climate Strike on Sept. 20 and it was so inspiring to talk with some of these dedicated young people literally wanting to change the world. We had a table where League members registered people to vote.
The League is a great place to learn and we are so fortunate to have several experienced and knowledgeable members to learn from. Among many others, I personally thank Rita, Karen, Bob, Roma, and Gloria, for my continuing education.
You, too, can “reach” above -- just contact a chair of one of our several committees and join us in making a difference in our world.
Hello to all!
After three terrific years under the leadership of Mary Collins, I have some big shoes to fill. Thank you, Mary, and all other members of the board, for everything our League accomplished. We saw a strong voter service program to register more voters and help inform voters before elections. Strong committees worked on national, state, and local issues.
As your new president, I am honored to serve and plan to work with other board members and League leaders to enable you, our members, to be more effective in pursuing projects that you think will make our community and nation stronger.
Do you think the lack of civil discourse in political arenas is threatening our democracy? The five Leagues of Santa Clara County has a committee working on programs to help restore respect and reason to our public and personal dialogues. Sign up for "A House Divided: From Polarization to Collaboration: Bringing Back Effective Government" on Saturday afternoon, September 21. If you would like to work on this committee, contact me.
We had a very successful “Paris to Pittsburgh to San Jose” meeting in August on the Climate Crisis with 73 people attending. A huge thanks to Virginia Holtz and her hard-working committee and many other volunteers for this success. Our League will be planning more events in the future to bring community attention to various important issues.
There is SO much going on in the coming year!! 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote and the founding of the League of Women Voters. Santa Clara County is using a new voting process for the 2020 presidential election (all mail-in ballots and no precinct voting) and we will help educate voters about it. We plan to help our local government encourage everyone to participate in the 2020 census. And housing/homelessness, transportation, civil discourse, climate change, ....
Are there areas where you want to make a difference? Contact me or the people leading these committees and get involved! As Congressman John Lewis has said: “If we fail to act, who will do It?”