Making Democracy Work

VOTER May 2013

Annual Meeting

Wednesday, June 5th, 5:45 PM
Dinner/Meeting followed by:
Ensuring Public Safety in Oakland:
What Community Groups Can Do

Robert Wasserman, Chairman of Strategic Policy
Partnership, LLC
Public Safety Consultant with the City of Oakland

FAZ Restaurant 1111 Broadway at Oakland City Center
parking available on the street and City lots nearby
City Center BART Station
$15- Dinner, meeting and program
Wine available by the glass, full no-host bar also available
All LWVO Members are called to attend the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Membership of the League of Women Voters of Oakland. Guests are welcome.
RSVP by Friday, May 31st, by mailing your check to the League office,
1305 Franklin Street, Suite 311, Oakland CA 94612,
or by calling the office at(510) 834-7640

Click here to see the Call to Annual Meeting. Print it and bring it with you to the Annual Meeting. There is also a copy in your print copy of the VOTER.

President's Message

By Katherine Gavzy

These are critical times for Oakland. Your League is working hard to keep our members and the public informed. Where appropriate we get involved to ensure that even in times of crisis the City respects transparency and open government, and that decisions are made with public input. Serious issues facing Oaklanders include the city budget and public safety, but also in the longer term the best use of our waterfront area and the future of the Oakland Unified School District.

The budget is under discussion at City Council right now. LWVO spoke at a Council meeting to encourage a public-spirited approach, saying "Instead of thinking of yourselves as consumers of a small set of ... services, think of the whole city, and the services that we want to provide for each other. We Oaklanders are at our best when we are pulling together. See the full text of our statement here or on our action page. LWVO is following and supporting Council attempts to craft a rational and transparent budget process, something we have been urging for years. To be truly effective we desperately need a member to be our "budget champion." If you are concerned about the financial state of your city and want to help, please contact Action Chair Mary Bergan or just call the LWVO office (834-7640).

Public safety is on everyone's minds. The City has responded by organizing town hall meetings led by the consulting team Strategic Policy Partnership. We are thrilled that the Chairman of that group, Robert Wasserman, will be our speaker at the June 5th Annual Meeting. His talk should help us under-stand how the League can best work with neighborhood and other groups on this problem which affects the quality of life for everyone in Oakland.

On the waterfront, the future of Gateway Park and the completion of the Bay Trail were the agenda at our March 26th Hot Topics; see the article . LWVO will continue to monitor progress of these plans and take a stand when the time is right.

The imminent departure of Oakland Schools superintendent Tony Smith risks creating yet another crisis for the city. Our LWVO Education Committee will follow the OUSD as it searches for a replacement, making sure that the process is transparent, open, and provides opportunity for public input.

Come to the Annual Meeting on June 5th to hear about all this and more, and enjoy our new downtown venue with your fellow Leaguers.

Oakland Redistricting

The Oakland City Charter requires that the city revise council districts every ten years, in years that end in 3. To get the process started, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana issued an RFP for an expert consultant to assist city staff in preparing a proposal for new districts. The competitive process led to the selection of National Demographics Corporation (NDC), headquartered in Glendale.

NDC will begin work within a few weeks, but public outreach will wait until after the City budget is enacted. NDC will develop an interactive mapping and informational website by which the public may contribute their comments and suggestions. The League will be following this process closely and encourages all members to keep up with LWVO bulletins.

The populations of Districts 2, 3, and 5 have increased (3) or decreased (2, 5) so that they now deviate from the population mean enough to require changes. However, it is likely that other districts will also see new boundaries in order to achieve numbers as close as possible to equal. What changes would you like to see?

Some months ago the League explored the creation of an independent commission modeled on the one that produced the current districts for the state legislature and Congress. However, it became clear that there is much work to be done to build support for and to create a local commission, more than could be done in time for 2013. That means we'll have to get busy for 2023.

Initiative and Referendum Study: What's Next?

On February 23, Oakland League members, joined by some Leaguers from Berkeley/Albany/Emeryville and West Contra Costa County, had a stimulating discussion about possible reforms to the initiative and referendum process in California.

Discussion ranged from the detailed to broad principles. Should the requirements to put an initiative on the ballot be easier or harder? Who should be responsible for writing the title and summary? What principles should the League use in evaluating future reforms? How important is transparency as compared with comprehensibility?

The state study committee met April 20 and 21 to consider the input from the local Leagues and to write the proposed updated position.

The LWVC board will meet Thursday, May 16. At this meeting, it will consider the proposed updated position. If it adopts the new position, then at the LWV convention on May 17-20 in San Jose, the delegates will be given an opportunity to reaffirm the new position.

What Code for America Offers Oakland

Editor's Note: Jenn Pahlka, the founder of Code for America, is the keynote speaker at the All City Luncheon May 1st.

How would you feel if your grown son or daughter said to you one day, "Mom, I'm here for a week; what can I to do to fix up things around here?" Well, that's essentially what Code for America (CfA) is offering Oakland. Often compared to Teach for America, they connect tech talent with city officials and civic leaders to create solutions that will be open and are available to all.

Code for America is a San Francisco-based nonprofit and Oakland has been selected as one of the cities to participate in the 2013 Code for America program. We are assigned three Fellows to guide the programs, Cris Cristina, Richa Agarwal and Sheila Dugan and this has already spun-off Open Oakland, founded by Steve Spiker (aka Spike) and Eddie Tejeda. You might have seen these people - they usually hang out around and in City Hall working on apps with their various groups. The city has given them space and the wholehearted sup-port of the administration. CfA fellows are creating computer applications that use technology to smooth out some of the knots in the city's functioning, making information more accessible, transparent and user friendly. Already they have created an OpenData platform that brings together miscellaneous city data onto a single site (, made it easier to find your Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), and designed a blight tracker - a way to predict what properties are likely to become blighted or foreclosed. Ongoing projects involve cleaning up crime data to make it more accessible, working on transportation issues, and what ever else Oaklanders feel they need. The concepts that guide Code for America -- open source, transparency, and data accessibility -- connect strongly with those of the League and make us enthusiastic supporters of their efforts.

Their influence is apparent throughout Oakland, inspiring, a web site that encourages citizens' input on city issues (suggestions that are read by city staff); OaklandWiki, a community website about all things Oakland; City Meets, ongoing informal meeting with programmers, city staff and interested parties; Open Data Day and Hackathon that bring diverse groups together.

At the Hackathon, held at the East Oakland 81st Street library, in a room filled with hackers and techie geeks, the attitude was expressed by a statement, "I have skills, they are at your disposal - use me". This is a refreshing new prescription for these days of lean resources. We all have "skills" - it's the offering part that moves a city.

Who Represents Oakland Point Person Needed

Wanted - an LWVO member who would like to be the one to help us keep Who Represents Oakland (WRO) accurate and up-to-date.

This printed document is one of the League's most requested Voter Service products. City offices and homeowner associations, League members and elected officials contact us to request one or multiple copies.

We usually update it twice a year. Before we print it and update its Web page, we need some-one who will contact the various offices listed in WRO to check to make sure we have the correct information.

Are you someone who would like to read the paper and listen to the news with an ear out for the kind of information found in WRO? Would you be willing to make those phone calls twice a year?

If you'd like to make WRO your baby, contact Bonnie Hamlin at 658-6212 or

Oakland Waterfront: Hot Topics Discussion

The Hot Topics meeting in March provided a lot of information about the development of recreational areas along the waterfront. Progress is being made on Gateway Park, which will run parallel to the east side touchdown of the Bay Bridge. East Bay Regional Parks applied for a benefit conveyance of 15-20 acres after the closure of the Oakland Army Base in 1998 which was approved, and the Park District began exploring the opportunities with other public agencies having jurisdiction in the area. The resulting Gateway Park Working Group was formed in 2002; it is made up of nine different agencies that have an interest in the development of the park. For details of their membership see The Gateway Park Working Group is hoping to open the discussion to the public in the next few months. When we get the date, we will post it!

Our first presenter was Michele diFrancia from HNTB, a consultant working with the nine public agencies on Gateway Park. Michele provided an excellent map of the proposed park area extending from the Bay's edge to the freeway maze. She described the dream of a park as big as 200 acres, with the only constraint being financing. Right now, the Gateway Park Working Group is focusing on a smaller scale of up to 30 acres, including the Bay Trail for walkers and bicyclists.

Our second presenter was Bill Threlfall, administrator for the Measure DD Community Coalition ( He noted that there are a number of planning documents that address the Bay Trail in Oakland: Bay Trail Plan, Oakland Estuary Policy Plan, Oakland Waterfront Trail feasibility study, Oakland Measure DD Bond (passed by over 80% of the voters), and at least four others. The trail from Emeryville to Jack London Square is routed away from the shoreline because of the inaccessible commercial area of the Port. Accordingly, most attention is focused on the 6.6 miles of Bay Trail running from Jack London Square along the Estuary to Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline. He also noted that the Measure DD bond language allocated funds to close the gaps along the Estuary, and six have been closed to date. Plans are under-way for High Street Bridge Bay Trail linkage. To see a map of the Measure DD projects, go to

There are two key ways the Bay Trail can be built: 1) as a condition of a permit or development agreement for construction along the waterfront issued by BCDC or the City, and 2) through public funding from sources such as bond funds from Measure DD or Measure WW or various grants from public sources.

There are four key remaining gaps in the Bay Trail. Two are on public trust property managed by the Port of Oakland. These are located in the Oak to Ninth area and the Coast Guard Island area and the Livingston Pier. Two more are on private land: one at Con Agra and another at the site of Gallagher & Burke and Hanson Aggregates south of the High Street Bridge.

LWVO Board Highlights

The Action Committee is working on a number of projects, ranging from researching what a new and improved Measure Y should look like to evaluating the language of the renewal for the Wildfire Prevention Assessment District which authorizes a parcel tax on properties in the hills. The new ordinance renewing the tax will be placed on a mail ballot to voters within the district. Discussion on the city budget led to the committee preparing a statement to the city council; You can read it here.

The Development Committee is looking forward to a very successful All City Luncheon on May 1. We have more supporters buying tables or half tables than ever before. The committee is busy putting all the details in place.

Several Board members and others are planning to attend the California LWV convention in San Jose in mid-May.

Meanwhile, the Program Committee is making plans for the Annual Meeting on June 5.

The Communications Committee is increasing the use of Facebook and other social communicate with members and to attract new members. It is also sending email blasts to announce all events, and making an effort to reach out to more local news outlets. The committee will be evaluating the effectiveness of their efforts in the coming months.

Statement to Oakland City Council - Special Budget Workshop

Marion Taylor made the following statement on behalf of the LWVO Action Committee

The League of Women Voters of Oakland supports a local finance system that provides sufficient revenue to meet the changing needs of the people. We would prefer to speak for more and better services. However, the reality of fiscal constraints means that you are going to have a tough time adopting a budget.

It is easy for those of us who benefit from a particular service to argue vehemently for retaining that service. None of us likes to see our own lives get more difficult.

We ask that everyone here tonight take one or two steps back, and try to see the whole picture. Look at the spectrum of services the city provides - police and fire protection, library services, senior services, arts to enrich our lives, street paving. Instead of thinking of your-selves as consumers of a small set of these services, think of the whole city, and the services that we want to provide for each other.

Go ahead and make your best case for saving your service if you must - but be sympathetic with the others facing cuts. We Oaklanders are at our best when we are pulling together.

Schedule for Budget

The budget will be available for public review, discussion and input for approximately 10 weeks before the City Council passes an adopted two-year budget, which is anticipated to occur on or before June 27. There will be town hall meetings in May throughout Oak-land in addition to City Council meetings at City Hall May 23, June 6, and June 27. See for more details about the budget process.

Timeline for Oakland City Budget 2013-15

April 2 - Budget development workshop
Week of April 15 - Release of policy budget, with several scenarios outlined.
April 30 - Presentation of proposed 2013-15 budget
May all month - Four budget town hall meetings and community input. LWVO will post dates as soon as they are announced.
Formal City Council hearings on the budget held at City Hall:
May 23 - Budget Hearing at City Hall, 6:30
June 6 - Budget Hearing at City Hall, 6:30
June 27 - Budget Hearing at City Hall, 6:30 for final budget adoption
June 30 - When the charter requires final adoption of the budget

National LWV Speaks Out about the Recent Senate Vote on Gun Control

The League of Women Voters of the U.S. (LWVUS) expressed frustration and disappointment with the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass an amendment that would have required background checks for gun purchases even though background checks had garnered support from an overwhelming majority of Americans.

"The failure of the Senate to pass this amendment marks a sad day, not only for the many victims lost to gun violence, but for the Senators who were unable to find the strength to do the right thing," said Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League. "Ultimately, political fears and outrageous claims won out over common sense."

"The Senators who voted against this amendment failed in their fundamental duty to protect Americans from wanton gun violence. They should have stood up to the special interest gun lobby and their money and instead stood with the American people," MacNamara said.

"Senators Manchin and Toomey deserve the thanks and appreciation of the nation, not only for the courage to seek compromise across partisan lines, but for the courage to do the right thing against a powerful and unforgiving lobbying force," added MacNamara.

The League of Women Voters of the United States has a long-standing position in support of gun control. Since 1990, we have lobbied in support of banning assault weapons, requiring all dealers to run criminal background checks at gun shows, and opposing laws that grant special protection for the gun industry.

"This fight is not over, it is far too important," concluded MacNamara. "Gun control is a matter of public safety and public health. It is long past time for vital measures to stop the carnage. On behalf of our mem-bers and supporters from across this country, we urge Washington to help put a stop to this violence."

Invite a Friend to Join!

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.


Welcome, New Members
Liz Hendrickson
Selma Seligman
Changes to the Roster
Gwynne La Russa (new address)
Mary Lawrence (new apartment number)
John and Ellie Sutter (new address and phone number)
Zabrae Valentine (corrected address)

A Loss in the League Family
Long-time member Gertrude Young died March 15, 2013. Born in Hawaii, she worked for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory for almost 30 years. She was a passionate advocate for single payer health care and restoring civil liberties. Those who served with Gertrude on the Board of Directors of LWVO remember her with gratitude and fondness for her many terms as Treasurer. We extend our sympathy to her family.

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