Making Democracy Work

VOTER October 2013

Making Redistricting Matter

[Error: Bad image reference 2013-oct-districts.jpg] The League of Women Voters of Oakland invites you to discuss the issues involved in redistricting at its next program on:
Wednesday, October 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 1.

Come and learn more from:
Devan Reiff Planner, City of Oakland Strategic Planning Division
Doug Johnson President, National Demographics Corporation
Sharon Cornu Coordinator, Oakland Votes Redistricting Coalition

Hot Topic: Plan Bay Area

As cities implement Plan Bay Area, they will have to set priorities for residential and commercial development. Join us on Wednesday, October 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m at the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at 475 14th Street to talk about what this means for Oakland: what kind of development do we want to see here, where should it be built, and how can the public get involved?

Plan Bay Area calls for transit-oriented residences in parts of cities to be designated as Priority Development Areas. Oakland has six priority development areas. Our conversation will focus on the Broadway/Valdez District where plans issued in September are available for review and comment until November 4. Come to talk about it.

Resource people

  • Laura Kaminski, City Planning Department
  • Joel Devalcourt, Greenbelt Alliance

President's Message

[Error: Bad image reference 2013-oct-gavzy_color.jpg] Redistricting: now here is a word that can get your typical "policy wonk" Leaguer excited and may cause other folks to break out in yawns. But after the success of the state League-sponsored ballot measure in 2010 that took California's redistricting out of the hands of the state legislature and gave it to a nonpartisan citizens commission, we know that everyone values an open, transparent, and fair process for drawing elective district lines. Oakland is in the midst of trying to do just that. We may not have a citizen's commission (maybe next time around?), but we have had a series of opportunities for citizen input. Come to our program on Wednesday, October 9 to learn all about it (announcement above).

"Wednesdays with the League" continues on Wednesday, October 23 with a Hot Topics roundtable discussion on the recently-adopted Plan Bay Area and its impact on Oakland development. Future Wednesday speaker programs and Hot Topics discussion meetings will cover subjects including public safety and civil liberties, Measure Y and citizens oversight, dark money in politics, how to be an effective involved citizen, immigration reform, and health care reform. Have we missed something important? Is there an issue you want LWVO to address? Send your ideas to -- we need to hear from you!

The report from our annual board retreat and the profiles of our wonderful new board members on pages six and seven should tell you why I am especially excited about the upcoming year in League. We have a group of passionate, dedicated, and interesting people on the board, supported by so many capable and energetic members. We continue to reach out to different segments of the community to broaden our membership and develop our leadership. LWVO is becoming known as a "powerhouse" organization in Oakland and within the state League: our power is in our people.
- Katherine Gavzy

OUSD Leaders Seek Community Support

[Error: Bad image reference 2013-oct-_ousd_leaders.jpg] Speaking at the League's fall kickoff program on the Oakland Unified School District, acting superintendent Gary Yee made an emphatic request to attendees: Spread the word that the city's education system is making progress.

"I need that message to go out," he told the audience at one point, echoing a frequent refrain.
In recent years, the district has struggled with budget problems, absenteeism, and racial disparities, and has felt added pressure in serving large populations of low income, special needs, and English-learning students. While acknowledging these challenges, Yee and fellow speaker David Kakishiba, OUSD school board president, remained focused on the positive. They discussed the district's strategic plan, "Community Schools, Thriving Students," launched under former superintendent Tony Smith, who resigned from the post earlier this year for family reasons.

The strategic plan has just entered into its third of five years, as it seeks to support students not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well. This means providing more comprehensive health services, promoting greater parent and guardian involvement, and encouraging all Oakland residents to play an active role -- to take "collective responsibility for schools that are struggling," as Yee put it.
How can people assume such responsibility? It starts with merely paying attention. One opportunity to do so will come on October 9, when the OUSD board will hear a presentation on new School Quality Review data, an important assessment tool in the strategic plan. The presentation should allow members of the public to "see if we're going in the right direction," Yee said.

- Alec MacDonald (story and photo)

For more information on OUSD's strategic plan, visit For more information on OUSD board meetings, visit or call (510) 434-7790.

Report from the Action Committee

We have been working with the Oakland Votes Coalition to encourage participation in the redistricting process and the meetings that have been held in each Council district. Emphasis is on those groups that have been under-represented in the past as well as on a transparent process to produce districts that are viewed as fair by Oakland residents. On September 18 the coalition sponsored an open meeting to help participants understand the importance of redistricting and to give them the opportunity to draw maps of their own.

Deborah Shefler, Marion Taylor, and Helen Hutchison have been pulling together information on the workings of Measure Y. How are violence prevention projects selected and evaluated? How can the oversight committee be given the capacity to do its job?

Katherine Gavzy is following the Public Ethics Commission, which is undertaking initiatives to expand its enforcement authority and to develop a code of ethics for city officials (see below).

LWVO is supporting the special tax to extend the Wildfire Prevention District and is signatory to the ballot argument in favor. This is a mail ballot for property owners within the district.
- Mary Bergan

Submit a Nomination for Luncheon Awards

We invite you to nominate an individual or an organization to receive one of LWVO's Making Democracy Work awards. Each year at our annual All- City Luncheon, we celebrate community leaders -- individuals and organizations that have envisioned a way to improve Oakland and have mobilized others to work with them to effect a change that has benefited the broader community.

We do this by presenting our Making Democracy Work awards to two such individuals and/or organizations that have, in the League tradition, helped to make Oakland strong, vibrant, and fair. Nominations are open to any Oakland resident or organization that is contributing or has contributed to our community in a significant and meaningful way.

You can print the form by clicking here. It may also be obtained by calling our office at (510) 834-7640.

You have until December 15 to submit the nomination, but there's no time like the present!
- Bonnie Hamlin

We Want Your Luncheon Input

LWVO's Development Committee invites you to give us your opinions about the League's Annual All-City Luncheon. Use this URL to access a short poll where you can let us know how you feel about the Luncheon venue, timing, and speaker:
It should take you only a few minutes and your responses will be anonymous unless you would like us to have your name and contact information for follow-up.

More on the Public Ethics Commission

Last summer, after the Alameda County Grand Jury issued its damning findings on "Dysfunctionality in Oakland City Government" and following a melodramatic Council meeting, Councilmember Dan Kalb launched an Ethics and Good Government Working Group. With the assistance of Public Ethics Commission Director Whitney Barazoto, the group will propose reforms and enhancements to the city's existing good government ordinances: transparency, campaign financing, lobbyist registration and regulation, and ethical conduct in campaigns and government. A key objective will be to strengthen the role and authority of the PEC, which currently finds itself in the unenviable position of being responsible for recommending policies and actions but with no authority to enforce them.

These are all issues that the League has been promoting within the city for years, so we were pleased to be invited to seat a representative on the working group. In addition to the "official" LWVO representative, three of the remaining eight people on the working group are also LWVO members! The group includes private citizens from a variety of public interest groups and backgrounds, including Fumi Sugihara of LWVO, whose experience and knowledge of good government will be immensely valuable.

There will be many public opportunities in the fall and winter to provide input; the ultimate goal is to go to City Council with proposed ordinances in early spring 2014. We will keep our members posted on the group's progress via our website and Facebook page, and hope that you will all chime in often. Please send your ideas and reactions to

- Katherine Gavzy

Join the Agriculture Update Study

Are you interested in whether your food comes from a conventional or an organic farm? Whether you eat food derived from a genetically modified organism (GMO) or not? What about some of the financial and regulatory issues in agriculture today: farm consolidation, crop subsidies, water regulation?

You're in luck, because we are about to start an agriculture update study with other East Bay Leagues to explore these and other issues such as antibiotics in livestock, accurate food labeling, and the use of herbicides/pesticides. The study is sponsored by the LWVUS Education Fund, but we will explore the key issues as they relate to California. And we'll go on two field trips: one day to several "conventional" farms, and another time to organic or smaller farms.
This fall, we will meet for informal study, with the official Consensus process starting in January
2014. Although we may study together with different Leagues, each League will come to its own conclusions regarding the Consensus questions.

To get us off to a good start, we are joining the LWV of Piedmont on Wednesday, November 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for a program related to this topic. We will hear a talk by Adam Scow, California Campaigns director for Food & Water Watch. Mark the date, with more details to come closer to the time of the event.

If you are interested in joining the Consensus process to update the LWVUS Agriculture Policy, please contact Trisha Gorman via e-mail at, and join other Leaguers in discovering what's behind the food we eat.
- Trisha Gorman

National League Election Report

LWVUS has released Election Improvement Agenda, identifying central challenges facing our complex election system. LWVO urges our members to read it at

Peralta Colleges Passes Accreditation

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced in July that the Peralta Colleges were off "warning" and had passed their accreditation reviews with flying colors. The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville (LWVBAE) has been following the community college district closely for many years. They sent the following letter of congratulations to the District:

"The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville gratefully acknowledges Peralta District's success in restoring all our campuses to full accreditation. ... Strong leadership and public progress reports rebuilt the trust that had crumbled under the years of covering up failing accountability systems. ... We look forward to continuing public involvement in discussions of Peralta's future. Our community needs to hear what the colleges can provide and we hope that we too can help bring people young and old to fulfill their ambitions with the skill sets and career counseling the District offers."

We at LWVO join LWVBAE in congratulating our community college district on this success.
- Katherine Gavzy

LWVO Board Holds Annual Retreat

On August 17, the LWVO Board of Directors met for its annual board retreat. The purpose of the retreat is to review our standards and policies, to plan for the tasks and events of the coming year, to welcome and orient our new members, and to re-commit ourselves to working together to achieve our goals.

Thanks to the intervention of Dawna Williams, a new member and co-chair of the Development Committee, we were able to meet in the beautiful and historical Bender Room of Carnegie Hall at Mills College. Almost all of the board members and two off-board leaders, Jane Klein and Trisha Gorman, were able to attend the session which went from 9:30 to 3:00.

The meeting began with a recommitment to our Covenant in which we agreed to execute and advance the League's objectives and to actively work to preserve democracy, with honesty and to the best of our ability, while conducting ourselves with civility and appreciation for the differences among us.
As the day progressed, we approved our Executive Committee, appointed two members to the Nominating Committee, and discussed other committees' vacancies and leaders' needs. We discussed outreach, leadership development, and studies planned for 2013-14. We reviewed our financial situation and discussed how to strategically use our surplus. We wrapped up our day with vigorous brainstorming about the next year's work.
- Rosalee Schubert

New Board Member Profile: Dawna Williams

Dawna Williams In 2008, while Dawna Williams was student body president at Laney College, she initiated a voter registration drive and requested help from LWVO. Judy Merrill and the Voter Service Committee lent a hand, and the drive was a huge success. Judy, impressed, asked Dawna to join the League. Although she lives in Pittsburg and works in Martinez, she joined LWVO in 2010. She attended college in Oakland (Laney and Mills) and made a lot of connections and says that though she lives in Pittsburg, her heart is in Oakland.

Dawna's life is full of community service and activism. In addition to her work with the League, she is a member of the Mills College Board of Governors, the AAUW, and POWER, which produces the annual Ms. Delilah Beasley Tea.

In her professional life she works for Shelter Inc., a non-profit that helps find transitional housing for those who need it, with an emphasis on those with mental health issues, veterans, and those newly released from prison.

Since joining the board in June, Dawna has joined the Development Committee, and is chairing the All- City Luncheon with Bonnie Hamlin. Her fundraising experience and connections are already proving valuable. Dawna is also eager to expand the outreach of the League to attract a younger and more diverse membership.

In response to a comment that her community involvement was impressive she said, "I enjoy my activism; it keeps me grounded."

New Members

Carolyn Doelling
Jeremiah Loverich
Shirley Woo

New Board Member Profile: Louise Anderson

Louise Anderson Louise Anderson joined the League in 2009 and since then has been one of those invaluable members who volunteer behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. She has been an office volunteer for several years and during the 2012 election she did voter registration and coordinated the distribution of the Easy Voter Guides. She originally became interested in the League because of and the comprehensive information the League provides during elections. She joined the Board in June.

Since retiring from being an administrator with the Port of San Francisco in 2010, Louise, educated as a librarian, has devoted a lot of her time to volunteering in the library at Juvenile Hall. She is particularly interested in the topic of restorative justice and is involved with the Alameda County Juvenile Justice--Delinquency Prevention Commission. She hopes to engage LWVO in these topics while on the Board.

Louise lives with her husband in the Glenview neighborhood. They have three children and the youngest just left for college at Macalester in St Paul, Minnesota.
- Sandy Venning (both profiles)

Renew Your League Membership!

Our strength is in our members' participation and the dues they pay to fund our work. We have a full plate this year, including community forums, registration drives, education studies, continued monitoring of Oakland redistricting, strengthening the Public Ethics Commission, and supporting Plan Bay Area.

Our ability to serve depends upon your annual renewal. Our membership year is July 1 to June 30, so if you have not yet done so, please send in your renewal as soon as possible. Send a check, or use Pay Pal on our website if that is easier for you. Thanks to those of you who have already renewed and thanks in advance to all of you who are renewing now. Renewal details and an interest survey are here. Members who renew by December 1 and complete the survey will automatically be entered into a raffle with exciting prizes, including gift certificates and a ticket to our 2014 Luncheon.

Donate to the League

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