LWV logo gifTHE VOTER
Fall 2008 Edition
Published December 12, 2008
2008 League of Women Voters of Alabama




Local League News

Baldwin Couty

This fall the Baldwin County League sponsored a Seminar on the Critical Water Issues and Special Concerns for the southern part of the county in Gulf Shores. A distinguished panel discussed the growing threats to the area’s ecology. A planned spring seminar will address the critical water issues and special concerns as directly related to and affecting the northern part of the county.

There are drastic differences in the ecology of the two areas.  Population explosion in the south end is gradually creeping northward, but has not particularly crossed I-65 or arrived at Bay Minette.  However, other issues as well as those of the countywide infrastructure are causing concern.

The Delta extends 35 miles up to the junction of the Alabama-Tombigbee, and is the eastern portion of the northern half of the county - with looming invasion of this lightly inhabited area, much needs to be done to assure the protection of this asset. 

If you look at the state map, the entire state is a watershed - consider the upper part of the state as the toilet - the bowl holding and sending the water down to through the Delta to Mobile Bay - the flushing area of the holding tank.  Anything interfering with the water quality from the Tennessee down - may make it past my bedroom window. 

It is incumbent upon the state to address this important point and guard the developments up the rivers and on the rivers to protect the entire population from pollution and poisoning of our fresh water resources.  We must continually teach and preach the pure science of nature and educate our citizens to stand as guardians to protect the quality of life provided by our resources and to keep constant vigil to provide clean air, clean water and man's self-imposed protection from the tendency of humans to foul their own nests. 

The dire needs in Baldwin County exist in the rest of our state, as the inability of the counties to control their own affairs is the crucial dilemma we all face trying to take care of our own home situation.  The counties do not have the authority to control their own infrastructures - or the power to enforce safety and health precautions within its unincorporated bounds. It is becoming a frightening situation.  Paradise is threatened.  We need home rule and the dignity of representative democracy restored in our state.           

-- Jeanne Lacey

Greater Birmingham

Many opportunities for members were available and accepted by the Greater Birmingham League related to the Election Season.  We began working at the Jefferson County Board of Registrar’s Office in early September.  Normally we work the last two weeks prior to an election.  The Birmingham Bar Association and the Junior League helped us, too.  We also added volunteers for the Shelby County Board of Registrar’s Office for the first time.  Numerous voter registration drives were facilitated either with volunteers or with advice for conducting when we ran out of volunteers.  Per the request from LWV we worked with the Head Start Program and provided voter registration as parents picked up their children at the end of the day’s program.  As other parts of the State probably saw, we saw a sharp increase in voter registration across all demographics.  We were quoted in the newspaper a couple times and our volunteers were featured on local television.  It is definitely inspiring to see the League in the role it plays well in supporting democracy.

The LWVGB co-sponsored the UN Day Dinner with the United Nations Association of Birmingham.  Jane Roberts spoke on the funding for women and children health across the world. In 2003 the United States blocked the spending of  $34 Million Dollars by the UN Population Fund for maternal and child health efforts.  Ms. Roberts and Lois Abraham formed a group 34 Million Friends of UNFPA to raise $1.00 from 34 million women and men in the U.S. to support the efforts of UNFPA in family planning and maternal and childhood health. 

After our traditional kick off member meeting at the Cantina, we had two special meetings conducted by our own members.  Jean Johnson led the group in a very interactive discussion on use of the Internet and the League tools for conducting League business or following your own political interests.  Members brought laptops and followed along.  In November Ann Smith led the discussion on our Observer Corp with input from members Amanda McGriff, Nancy Ekberg, and Ruth Wright who all observe the Birmingham City Council, Jefferson County Commission, Birmingham Water Works Board, Metro Area Transit Advisory Board and Personnel Board of Jefferson County.  The conclusion from members was that the League shared more information than is printed in the local newspapers.

The December Holiday Luncheon featured Representative Paul DeMarco who is a lead sponsor on a County Manager bill for Jefferson County.  He will introduce a revised version of the bill he has introduced in the past.  The League plans to help educate the community on the need for a county manager in economically-inefficient Jefferson County.  The State Legislature must pass a bill to enable this approach to government.
                               
-- Virginia Randolph
President, LWV of Greater Birmingham


East Alabama


Fall programs included informative talks on mental health care by Dr. Anne Penny of the East Alabama Mental Health Center, on assessing our carbon footprint by Dr. Lindy Biggs and Matt Williams of the Auburn University Sustainability Center, and on plans for development in Auburn and Opelika by representatives of the two cities’ planning departments.

Small discussion groups explored local needs, including police protection in rural areas.

A number of Auburn Leaguers worked on November 4, both as all-day poll workers and as counters of write-in ballots after the polls closed. Others were active in their parties’ endeavors.


Mobile

Vote 18 Road Trip USA in Mobile Alabama

“Awesome!  I’m definitely voting!”  “This program should be in every school!”  “How can I get involved?”  These are just some of the exuberant quotes heard from students, school district officials, and community leaders after Vote 18 was debuted at Mobile’s Murphy and Baker High School on October 16th. 

Over 250 students participated and over two dozen distinguished guests came out to see the Vote 18 debut including State Representative Joseph Mitchell, State School Board Member Randy McKinney, five Commissioners of the Mobile County School Board, Political Science professors form USA and Springhill College, many school district leaders and prominent community leaders, as well as many League members.  Local media gave good coverage of the event as well.

LWVM and Vote 18 will build upon this most successful introduction and continue to work with the school district in getting the program to as many students as possible.  As you know, Vote 18's principle focus is to engage young Americans to vote in each and every election, especially local elections such as City Councils and State Legislators.  This program will continue to teach young people the power of their vote as their voice in their community, and with this historic election behind us, we will adjust the lesson plan to discuss the impact and roles of those offices coming up for a vote.

We will be working to achieve Vote 18’s four programmatic and long-term goals:
  1. Encourage today’s youth to become tomorrow’s voters and community leaders
  2. Empower first-time voters by education and community building
  3. Increase political awareness of young people
  4. Promote dialogue among all citizens on issues of national and local importance
This historic election paves the way for us to connect with and inspire students about the power and impact of their vote and their involvement in the community.  Initial research shows that 3.4 million more young people turned out for this election than in 2004.  In total, 23 million people under the age of 30 made up 18% of the total electorate (up from 17% in 2004), and represented "at least" 60% of the overall increase in voter turnout. (http://www.civicyouth.org/

These new voters can be the beginning of a new generation of engaged, informed young Americans, but only if we continue to capitalize on their excitement and interest.  Long term involvement can rightfully stem from one cause or one candidate, but it cannot sustain itself on those initial measures alone.

That's where Vote 18’s youth civics program and community partnerships can play a crucial role, school by school, student by student.   We invite your local League to get involved with Vote 18 and connect with more young people, engage and inspire them, and turn them into life-long voters and active citizens in our democracy.  If you are interested in learning more about Vote 18, contact Mary McGinnis at 251-378-8378 or mmcginnis2008@yahoo.com.        

-- Mary McGinnis



Montgomery

The Montgomery League's two main co-sponsored events this fall went very well.  The candidate forum focusing on domestic and elderly abuse drew about 95 people and received both newspaper and television coverage.  The presentation of  the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" drew over 200 people.  Audience members ranged in age from 12 to the mid80s with about two-thirds female.  Response to the film was very positive, and it generated a great deal of discussion about the importance of the vote.  Many commented that it was important that the League and others ensure that the history of the women's suffrage movement is shared with each new generation of voters.

-- Anne Permaloff
President, LWV of Montgomery


Greater Tuscaloosa

The LWVGT had a busy election season.  Highlights include two voter forums.  The first featured candidates for the heavily contested Northport mayoral and city council races.  In addition to our candidates, a man dressed up in a chicken suit appeared to denounce one of the candidates, and we had to explain to the press that while we supported freedom of expression, we had indicated in our invitations to the candidates that no campaigning was allowed at the event.  We extend that to negative campaigning as well. Our second forum featured the two candidates for the District Seven State Board of Education race and for the county commission.  We had wonderful press coverage, and our capable moderator and LWVGT member, Hattie Kaufman, was featured in a picture in the Tuscaloosa News as “Hottie Kaufman.”  We all agreed that she is a “hottie.”  We are preparing for our January 15th “Meet Your Legislators Night,” hoping for the excellent turnout of legislators, members of the community, and students at Central High School, where it will be held.           

-- Kathy Byrd 
President, LWV of Greater Tuscaloosa
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