Making Democracy Work

VOTER January 2013

January Program Planning Meeting

Do you care about voting? Never miss an election? Then you need to come to the League's Program Planning meeting, where we will discuss where the state and local Leagues should focus their efforts over the next two years and vote on our priorities.

Saturday, January 19, 10 to 4:30
(There will be a break for lunch in the middle of the day.)

Swan's Market Commons
918 Clay Street, Oakland
Call the LWVO office at 834-7640 for building entry instructions

The League sets its agenda through the Program Planning process. You voted in November because you care about who will be setting our political future; similarly, please come make your voice heard about what you want the California and the Oakland Leagues' future focus to be. Check out the ample background reading material on the positions and their uses at

Reforming California's Initiative and Referendum Process

As part of a continuing effort to understand and improve California's initiative and referendum process, LWV Alameda and LWV Oakland co-sponsored a November meeting at which UC Hastings law professor Michael Salerno spoke about the problems with the process and various ways to improve it.

Our state's initiative and referendum process was set up to allow for "direct democracy", allowing the public to move forward on ideas that politicians refused to introduce. As Salerno sees it, the current process doesn't work. "I'm not against direct democracy--it's California's version of direct democracy that I do not support."
One of the serious problems with the initiative process is the money that goes into it. In the recent election, 347 million was spent on initiatives, and much of it was "mystery money" that could not be traced to its donors. California initiatives are big business. They usually get their financial support from special interests. There should be stricter laws requiring disclosure of top financial contributors. Salerno suggests that political ads on television should have a real-time crawl, a line of text under them listing the top contributors to the initiative. There also should be stricter laws on money laundering.

Salerno feels that the state legislature has abdicated its power, perhaps because of term limits. He suggests that elections for candidates be separate from elections about initiatives. Ideally, all initiatives would be drafted in public and circulated widely, but for this to happen, more time must be allowed. In Switzerland, for example, it takes a year between the introduction of an initiative and its being on the ballot.

The scope of an initiative should also be limited. An initiative should deal with a single subject, not an array, and should not require specific budget decisions. Because of the conflicting revenue and budgeting requirements of many initiatives, Salerno says, right now the legislature only controls 10 percent of California's annual general budget.

On February 23, LWVO will learn more about the process, discuss the major issues, and reach consensus on how the existing California League position should be updated to allow for more effective action. In the mean-time, background material for the study is available on the LWVC website. Click on "Initiative and Referendum Study" to see the study guide and consensus questions.

President's Message

   By Katherine Gavzy
So here we are again, facing a new year and unsure about what it will bring. But with the economy steadily though slowly improving, and the bruising election of 2012 behind us, we can look forward to 2013 with more optimism than before. Here are some positive signs for better times ahead. Oakland will have a new City Council, with three new council members and perhaps a new attitude towards one another, their job, and the citizens. I noticed during our candidate forums a common theme sounded by nearly every candidate: the council has been dysfunctional and has to start working together for the good of the City. Members of LWVO's Action Committee will be meeting with council members over the next few weeks to support this goal and will report back to our members. Another exciting development is the newly-invigorated Public Ethics Commission, which expects to have more much-needed staff support so they can be effective doing their job upholding open government and clean campaign financing. The Commission meets monthly on the first Monday at 6:30 PM in City Hall. It is important to have LWVO members visibly present at these public meetings, to demonstrate our support and our vigilance. I have been going regularly and would be really pleased to have any interested LWVO members join me - just show up, I will lend you a LWV button to wear.

Members are invited to participate in the annual program planning and policy review on January 19 (see the article on page 1). Here's your chance to have a say in the State and local League positions and issues for emphasis in 2013. It's your League, help make it a voice that has an impact. Expect a lot of lively discussion among interesting, opinionated Leaguers. The Hot Topics meeting on January 28, talking about Oakland's many different community gardening and urban farming initiatives, will be a refreshing change of pace. Learn what is going on all over the city, and how you can get involved (and get your hands in the dirt!).

Finally, on a sadder note, as I write this the nation is still in shock over the shooting deaths of twenty children in Connecticut. Maybe the time has finally come when the US will decide to prevent more violence and implement gun controls. LWVUS has strongly supported gun control legislation for decades and I'm sure the League


Saturday, February 2,
9:00 a.m. - 2:10 p.m.

First Unitarian Church of Oakland
685 14th Street at Castro, Oakland, CA 94612

Join us to learn about the importance of water in California.

Experts will inform us about
Background, Governance, and Conveyance

Cost in advance: $30 ($15 without lunch); at the door $35 ($20 without lunch).
To register, please send a check payable to `LWVBA', along with your name and any guest names, to:

1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94612.

Registration is also available online via PayPal at

For more details, please call (510) 839-1608 or email the LWVBA

LWVO Holiday Party

The annual holiday party at the home of Louise Rothman-Riemer and Davis Riemer was a delight to all who attended.

Warm hospitality,
Interesting conversation,
Delicious goodies,
A chance to chat without the need to accomplish anything,
An opportunity to meet new people as well as talk with old friends

Hot Topics: Urban Farming and Community Gardens

When: 6 PM, January 28
Where: 1330 Broadway, Suite 1601 (American Federation of Teachers conference room)

This month's Hot Topics meeting is a little different from most. It's not as political in the usual sense, but it concerns a burgeoning movement of local citizens growing healthy natural food and building community in parks, at schools, and on abandoned lots in neighborhoods around Oakland. To echo the League's mission statement, gardening together is another form of "hands on work that...leads to civic engagement."

Joining us for this event will be a number of people involved in the movement:
Victory Lee, founder and president of the Victory Garden Foundation, which manages the People's Victory Garden (edible landscaping) at Lake Merritt
Pete Collier, head of the City of Oakland community gardening program
Jody London, Oakland School Board, on the school gardens program and community involvement
Kelly Carlisle, who founded the Youth Urban Farm project in East Oakland (to be confirmed)
Someone from City Slicker Farms (to be confirmed)

Come hear about these different programs, their challenges and successes, talk about your own involvement with such efforts, or learn how you might become involved.

Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Several members of LWV Oakland joined other California League members and others for an event on December 15th that introduced us to editing and/or creating articles on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The theme of the event was Women and Democracy. The hope is that league members, with their knowledge of this subject, can add useful information to Wikipedia. During the session, we came up with a list of other topics to which we might like to add some commentary.

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic Wikipedia volunteers helped us create accounts for ourselves and take the first steps in editing and creating. We were told the characteristics of a quality Wikipedia article, how articles evolve and how they are constantly being overseen by experienced volunteer editors for quality, truthfulness, lack of bias and other characteristics. We learned how to monitor the development of an article, which will help us to know how "good" it is. This is just a beginning for us; we will have to see how far it goes.

FOLLOW THE ISSUE: A New Way You Can Make a Difference

The purpose of our monthly programs is education and information. But sometimes issues are of such interest that the League wants to do something more. In order to do something more, we must FOLLOW THE ISSUE.

Following an issue means finding two or more League members with sufficient interest in the issue to commit to spending some time working on it. The work might be to
Monitor newspaper and other media reports of what's happening.
Review agendas and minutes of committees, boards, and commissions working on the issue, e.g., City Council Committee on Community & Economic Development and the Oakland Port Commission.
Attend a meeting of key committees, boards, or commissions to see them at work and get a feel for the people involved. Then when an agenda contains an item relating to the issue, watch the meeting, if it is streamed, or go in person.
Make a recommendation to the League's Action Committee if you think it appropriate that the League comment on what is happening or make a recommendation to a committee, board or commission.

You can monitor the media, agendas, and minutes at home on your computer. Then decide when it is worth attending a meeting in person. If you are committed to the issue, you will gradually become very knowledgeable about it and able to evaluate what actions the League might take in support of or opposition to what's happening.

Here is an example: our November 13 program on Oakland Army Base Development provided a lot of information. What will the League do now? Will the promises of new jobs be realized, what impact will the development have on the surrounding community, will the City's actions be open and transparent and accept public input? How will we know, and what can we do about it? Are there two or more League members interested in tracking the Oakland Army Base Development? This works best when several people are involved. Maybe there is another issue of growing importance that you think the League should be prepared to address with an action or a statement.

Contact Action Chair Mary Bergan at if you want to follow the Oakland Army Base development, or if you want to propose another issue to follow, or if you just want to know more about this idea and might consider getting involved.


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.

We rely on dues and donations to support our programs.


Change to the Roster
Address Change: New Apartment Number
Gertrude Young
1850 Alice Street, Apt. 218
Oakland CA 94612

Members, please note:
If you have not renewed your membership for 2012-13, please do so NOW! We want to continue to include you in our membership roster!

Jana Lane

A Loss in the LWVO Family:
A member for 33 years, Jana Lane died November 11, 2012. She retired from teaching at Skyline High School in 2004, and had recently been involved with Genesis, an organization seeking free public transportation for Oakland students. We extend our sympathy to her family: Ken Lane, her husband, and her son and daughter.

2013 Luncheon Speaker Confirmed.

The All-City Luncheon, the League's most visible event, has confirmed its speaker for next spring. She will be Jenn Pahlka, founder and Executive Director of Code for America, a non-profit organization that, according to the Washington Post, "is the technology world's equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America". The New York Times described Code for America as "a new nonprofit project... which aims to import the efficiency of the Web into government infrastructures and ... make working in government fun and creative." Code for America recently moved its headquarters to Oakland; we are proud that Oakland was selected to be a "Code for America City" in 2013. To see a clip of Ms Pahlka speaking about Code for America, see

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