President's Message to League Members
How to live through these tremendously changing times? I love reading “big picture”
histories to try (not very successfully) to get a grasp on how our world has come to today.
Just think that humans have been living on this planet for several hundreds of thousands
of years, but only in the last few hundred have so many changes come so quickly.
Technology and capitalism and more have changed the way human beings are able to
satisfy their basic human needs.
We are now relying on our federal, state, and local governments to protect us during this
pandemic. We have seen our local governments, both city and county, be especially proactive.
On April 17, the Commonwealth Club hosted a virtual event moderated by Terry Christensen with Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and Jeff Smith, Santa Clara County Executive Officer, on the subject of “COVID-19: Santa Clara County and the Future”. The recording of this event is now available to all. If you have not already heard this, I urge you to listen to our elected officials who seem to honestly try to walk the line between protecting the health of all residents with foresight and nuance.
But how did we get here? Knowledgeable people have been warning us for years that a large pandemic would come “someday”. And now, one is here. It is a big test of our systems: governmental, food supplies, health care. It makes us think about what is really important in our lives.
The League takes action based on positions formed through consensus of informed members. And we have a lot of positions. One paragraph in “Meeting Basic Human Needs” seems especially apropos today: "Persons who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate or for whom jobs are not available have the right to an income and/or services sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and access to health care.”
Because so many people are not having their basic needs met, more and more people will hopefully be open to a real discussion about the kind of world we want to live in.
What if we start thinking about the best outcomes of this crisis?
Maybe everybody will start voting -- and vote carefully.
Maybe we can rebuild the economy--from the bottom up.
Maybe now is the time for a public health system for all.
Maybe we actually reverse carbon emissions in time.
What do you want to happen? The world needs voices of reason and to engage in public debate about how to understand where we are today and what we should do about it. If not now, when?
I hope all of you and your families and friends are healthy. See you on ZOOM!
Carol Watts, President
Oh my, what a change from a month ago!!! I hope all of you are safe and well.
At the beginning of March, we canceled our 100th Birthday Celebration which was to beheld on March 29. This has been rescheduled to June 14. But, in these uncertain times, we are not sure that our world will return to enough normality, so stay tuned.
We postponed our Lunch with League for March 19 with hopes for holding a live event on April 16. As our shelter-in-place order continues until May 3, so let’s hope we can hold it in June.
We are planning to hold our first Zoom board meeting next week and we will discuss how to continue our mission in these new times. Shall we try to produce a “virtual” Lunch with League? How will we hold our Annual Meeting? Should we hold online discussions with our members?
Our world has changed and may never be the same. I’m worried about so many people who don’t have savings and have lost jobs or income because of this huge economic contraction. Let’s hope it is short.
I want to look for silver linings. No one knows what our world will be like at the time of the November election: it may be unlike any we have known before. Is this time a good opportunity to compare the world we knew to the world we would prefer?
Will this open up the opportunity for vibrant discussions about the importance and responsibility of government at various levels? Should the federal government have been better prepared? If so, why wasn’t it? What kind of a health care system should we have? Do we need a better safety net for people in the event of another pandemic or effects of global climate change?
We all could use this opportunity to get to know our neighbors better, even in this time of physical distancing. Take care of yourself and your family and friends. If you wish, please send me or another of your League friends an email about how you are doing and your thoughts about these times. We want to support our members.
Wash your hands and stay healthy!!!
Vote on or before March 3!!!! Check VotersEdge before you mark your choices on your ballot. Then mail it postmarked on or before March 3 or find a ballot dropoff box or full-service Vote Center. After the election, you can find whether your ballot was counted. Transparency works!!
We were so pleased to receive a proclamation from the City Council of San Jose from Mayor Liccardo in February declaring the League’s 100th Birthday of February 14 “League of Women Voters Day”! Think about how special it is to be 100 years old! It is a testimony to the importance men and women place on a nonpartisan approach to Making Democracy Work. Our work is more important than ever.
We will continue to celebrate our 100th birthday with a very special party on March 29 at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The event is sponsored by the Leagues of Women Voters of Santa Clara County and will include a special program with presentations and displays about the accomplishments of the League. There is no cost for this fun and exciting event. Please RSVP HERE today and join us in celebration! It is a great opportunity to meet other League members in our county plus some elected officials. Beverages and food will be served. Join us!
Come to Lunch with League on March 19 to hear San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez, a member of our League, discuss Critical Issues facing San Jose. Come and ask your questions about Google downtown, planning for climate change, housing, and homelessness. RSVP HERE today!
Look for a mailing from the U.S. Census this month that will tell you how to fill out the online census form. For more information on our work to assure that Everyone Counts in the 2020 Census, read Sandy Mory's report HERE. Contact Sandy Mory if you have questions.
We are right in the middle of one of the busiest times for our organization: just before an election.
Our Voter Service team headed by Sara Nicolson is working hard to get more and more people registered to vote.
Sandy Mory and her volunteers are producing candidates forums so attendees can hear the candidates answer their questions and learn about the new voting procedures and the 2020 Census.
Martha Beattie is producing Pros & Cons events on ballot issues and the expanded voting procedures and the census.
While these events are wonderful resources for those of us who attend, we know we don’t reach a large number of voters. Where can everyone go to find our nonpartisan, unbiased presentation of all candidates and issues on the ballot on March 3?
Votersedge.org. We have a team of people headed by Judy Conner who are contacting
all local candidates to add information about themselves and their candidacies. We are
working to publish videos of the candidates' forums so people can listen to the candidates
answer questions--even though they did not attend. Find the Pros & Cons analysis of the
state proposition and local measures (as available).
It is “one-stop shopping”. Just enter your street address and zip code to see all candidates and measures on your ballot -- and information to help you decide which candidate is most likely to act on the issues and the values you hold dear. See analyses to help you decide your vote on measures.
February 14 is the 100th anniversary of our National League. We are so proud to be a part of this organization founded to educate newly-enfranchised women to be informed voters. I proudly wear my button “Not for Women Only” and encourage everyone to join our organization.
Don’t miss our very important Program Planning meeting on February 15. We will discuss local, regional, and national issues to decide which are the most important for the upcoming year. Should we pay more attention to the new hotel and office projects being planned in downtown San Jose? Is there enough “sunlight” shining on campaign contributions to our local candidates? It should be a lively discussion and we want you to join us. Save your seat and RSVP.
Join us for our February 20 “third Thursday” Lunch with League where we will hear a presentation by Ryan Skolnick of the California Nurses Association about Medicare for All and What it Means to You. See you there! Register and/or prepay now.
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.