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1999 - 2009 League of Women Voters of Alabama and
League of Women Voters of the United States

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The Alabama Voter 
Summer 2009 Edition

Published September 13, 2009

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The Voter

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President's Paragraphs
- Greetings from the New Kid on the Block

Last spring I had the honor to accept the nomination for a position on the LWVAL Board after a “sabbatical” of about 25 years, while I worked full time and tended to family matters.  I was thrilled, because I had regarded my first experience on the State Board as one of my favorites.  In those days, I did Voter Service and Election Law Reform, though for the first year, I co-chaired Voter Service with Johnnie Carr, civil rights activist, also President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and close friend of Rosa Parks.  I hope I did well by the state board, but I also know it provided me wonderful “on the job training” in public relations, the quirky machinations of our state politics, treading carefully as we finessed agreements with the “big guns” of the political parties in order to put on statewide televised debates for various state offices, etc. 

The board then was amazing—real giants in their knowledge, perceptiveness, vision, and more—and pulling it all off before laptop computers, email and the internet.  These women generally did not work “outside the home,” as the saying goes. They were extremely effective in many areas, but suffered defeats in others, such as the Equal Rights Amendment and “finishing the job” of replacing the 1901 Alabama Constitution that was started with the passage the Judicial Articles to the Alabama Constitution of 1901 to the “finish the job.”  They remained undaunted, and because of the mission of the League and the talent surrounding me, I loved being on the state board.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked if I would accept being State Co-President of the LWVAL, sharing responsibilities with Charlotte Ward.  Charlotte is one of those giants in knowledge, perceptiveness, vision and more, so I agreed—knowing that my enthusiasm would be supported by her wide range of knowledge and experience.  It is taking me a while to know all the fine points of this particular job, but in many ways, the League is the League, regardless of the level—local, state, or national.  We have to balance the dual responsibility of promoting “active and informed participation of citizens in government” in a strictly nonpartisan way, with exercising our advocacy side for selected issues. 

Our progress is sometimes agonizingly slow—for example, we are still working on reforming the 1901 Alabama Constitution.  And we have greater challenges in attracting and retaining members, and developing new leadership.  All too often, the same talented, committed people are recycled on local and state boards.  And we are stretched thin.  Witness that three of the local presidents serve on the state board, and that in a fourth league, the spokesperson (me) has joined the LWVAL board.  Several state board members are now retired, sharing their impressive experience and skills with the League.  And happily, we have celebrated having some new talent that will bring vigor to our board. 

We recently held our LWVAL Planning meeting, and we have wonderful dreams for the upcoming year—a big year, considering the changes that are bound to come with the 2010 elections.  We are exploring statewide televised gubernatorial debates, partnering with other entities that are compatible with League policies and procedures.  We are looking into where we may need to go in the area of Education…so much has changed in that arena that is not reflected in our current Education position.  We are involved in exciting projects and presentations and internet opportunities, about which you will read in this edition of the LWVAL Voter.  We need everyone’s help and commitment to the stated goals and purposes of the League in Alabama.  Please join us.  

-- Kathryn Byrd,
LWVAL Co-President



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Report from the Mock Convention

As Leaguers know, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform’s Foundation sponsored a Mock Convention this year, bringing delegates from 105 legislative districts together to write a new Alabama constitution.  They did a remarkable job.  Some from the League, including immediate past State League President, Mary Lynn Bates, were delegates.   Other League members who are also very active as ACCR volunteers, including LWVAL’s Chair for Constitutional Reform Nancy Ekberg, were key organizers of the project, doing everything from planning delegates’ meals to recruiting other volunteers.  Still others served on delegate selection committees.

Throughout the Convention gathering in Prattville in February of this year, several months of online and telephone conversations between article study groups, a second gathering in Montgomery in April and then a period of solicited commentary from the public, these dedicated, altruistic volunteers created a document that is a great improvement over our existing 1901 Alabama Constitution.  A documentary of the Convention has been made and will be posted on the ACCR website.

Mock Convention 2009 jpg

LWVAL participated in the public comment phase of the Mock Convention by submitting comments in a letter to the ACCR Foundation.  In addition, some League Board members posted comments on the draft on the designated public blog.  [See below for the LWVAL comments.]

The new Constitution was unveiled to the public on Thursday, August 27th, at Constitution Hall in Huntsville, where the State’s first governing document was written in 1819.  It is now available online at www.constitutionalreform.org.

At that same website, you can read the current ACCR VOICE newsletter telling about the document as well as the Bailey Thomson Award Luncheon that followed the unveiling. The late Bailey Thomson was the Professor of Journalism at the University of Alabama and founder of ACCR.  That luncheon was held at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville and featured Rick Bragg as keynote speaker.  The Bailey Thomson Award was presented to former Governor Albert Brewer, member of the first Board of Directors of ACCR, and retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Gorman Houston.  Brewer and Houston were deans and advisors to the Mock Convention delegates.

At the press conference unveiling at Constitution Hall several delegates shared their experience of the Mock Constitutional Convention. Mary Lynn Bates was one of those delegates and her observations are printed below.

"The delegates who wrote the 1901 Constitution (that continues to govern our State) were apparently motivated by fear, distrust, greed and a need to control.

In stark contrast, the spirit of the Mock Constitutional Convention was one of courage, hope, altruism and trust. 

Delegates were united in the passionate belief that Alabama needs a new constitution to move forward.  The deeply flawed 1901 Constitution has been successful in only one respect:  in setting up a governing structure that has made it extremely difficult to change that structure, a structure that concentrates power and impedes change.

Despite agreement on the need for a new constitution, Delegates were very diverse, not only in terms of age, race, gender, education, occupation and geography, but also in their political and social views.  We had conservatives, liberals and moderates, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

What was truly wonderful was the willingness of delegates to LISTEN, to RECONSIDER the views they came with, to COMPROMISE and to VOTE for a much less than perfect document but one that is a framework constitution that would let Alabamians more effectively and efficiently govern themselves.  Delegates voted to approve a document that did not specifically address all of their individual issues and that was not necessarily one they would ultimately choose, in order to demonstrate that the process can work.  We were willing to let the debate about specific divisive substantive issues take place in the electoral process and in the legislature in order to put a fairer and more effective governing framework in place….one that would give Alabama the ability to respond to rapid and inevitable change.

The 1901 Constitution tried and failed to stop change.  It succeeded only in making it hard for Alabama to prosper in a changing world.  In 1915, an Alabama Governor recommended a constitutional convention because he believed that the defects in the 1901 Constitution were 'so numerous and radical, and so intermingled in the different sections that trying to fix the document through amendment would be practically impossible.'  Over 800 amendments later, we delegates are inclined to agree."

-- Mary Lynn Bates and Nancy Ekberg

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Transportation:  An Ongoing Concern

As many Leaguers know, the League is part of a statewide transit organization called Alabama Transit Coalition.  The ATC is now a member of a Commission approved by the Alabama Legislature last full session, called the Statewide Alabama Transit Commission.  It is comprised of 11 transit systems in the state, lawmakers and others to study how the transit needs in Alabama can be met and how to pay for it.  It is to make recommendations to the Legislature before the state of the 2011 Legislative session, with an eye to funding.

The ATC meets in Montgomery and is currently putting together a database of all existing ride providers that will be posted on the State’s website.  That link will be the Governor’s Office on Disability and available to those who have internet access.  After that, ATC will focus on finding a way to allow callers to find the rides they need.  ATC hopes to allow the 2-1-1 (the statewide call-center system similar to 9-1-1…but dedicated to social needs like health and welfare) call system to expand so that it can also handle calls from those who need transportation.  That will require software that provides the necessary match between a caller and a ride provider.  But it is a step in the right direction.

League members are invited to attend any ATC meeting.  Let Nancy Ekberg know if you would like to be contacted about the meetings.  nanekberg@aol.com.

-- Nancy Ekberg

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Education:  What Next?

Given the importance of education in Alabama and the volatility that surrounds its funding, it seems appropriate that the League’s positions on the topic be reviewed on a regular basis. The last updates to the League’s positions were in 2003. It is time to look at them again, to see if additional ones are needed. Possible issues include access to technology in classrooms (the current positions address textbook distribution), support for pre-kindergarten, changes in the 2-year college system, duplication of programs in higher education, and equity funding. Do the current positions address the changes education faces today? If you would like to serve on the Education Committee or have suggestions, please contact me at: newlandhill@gmail.com <mailto:newlandhill@gmail.com> or 334-705-0848.

 -- Laura Hill, 
Education Chair


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LWVAL to Participate in Making Historic Film
  

"If we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law – not force or fraud," said John B. Knox, President of the 1901 Constitutional Convention as he advised the 155 delegates on their role as writers of Alabama’s sixth constitution.  These words and many as egregious, taken directly from the transcript of the Convention’s proceedings, are part of a re-enactment that will become a film and DVD showing the origins and intent of our current Constitution.  The half hour drama is being directed by Melanie Jeffcoat and includes actors (donating their time): Jesse Bates, Gordon Pate, Sam Chalker, John Northrop, Alan Gardner, Johathan Fuller, John Paul Taylor, Rex Slate, Jeff Jeffcoat and Thed Weller as well as Melanie.  Cinematographer is Patrick Seehan and film editor is Reuben Clay.  First costumed filming will be held September 19 and 20, allowing the film to be available by the end of this year for distribution to all legislators, schools and organizations that wish to view it.

Your League is a co-sponsor of a re-enactment/film about the delegates who wrote Alabama’s last Constitution. Joining in sponsoring the effort are: ACCR Inc., the League of Women Voters of Alabama, (who has donated toward the effort through the LWVAL-EF) American Association of University Women, Alabama Chapter and Greater Birmingham Ministries.  Scott Douglas of GBM was the first to uncover the transcript of the proceedings.

Women’s organizations are involved because a woman, Ms. Frances Griffin, addressed the men to ask that women’s voices be included in the document and vote.  The men, as we all know, denied her wish.  Contact Nancy Ekberg if you would like more information about this effort:  nanekberg@aol.com or 205 967-2897. 

-- Nancy  Ekberg

                     
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Bailey Thomson Awards

Bailey Thomson Award 2009 jpg

Bailey Thomson Award winners announced August 27, 2009, left to right;  Bill Giardini and Mary Holsambeck, ACCR Educators of the Year, Marian Loftin, ACCR Inc. , who accepted the Bailey Thompson Award for former Governor Albert Brewer, retired Chief Justice Gorman Houston, co-winner of the Bailey Thomson Award, and Jim Nash, President of the ACCR Foundation. In addition, two high school students, Megan Covington of Virgil Grissom High School (Huntsville) and Patrick Rooney of Hoover High School, were honored for their essays, "Who Needs a New Constitution," as first and second place winners in the ACCR Foundation sponsored essay contest.

The luncheon, held each summer in memory of the late UA journalism professor Bailey Thomson who started the ACCR, honors those who have notably supported the cause of Constitutional Reform in the past year.



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East Alabama Leaguers Attend Hearing on Health Care

Nearly a dozen members of the East Alabama League were part of an overflow crowd that assembled in the meeting room of an Auburn retirement home to hear Third District Representative Mike Rogers speak and take questions on health care. Although no leaguers got to speak, LWVAL Co-president Charlotte Ward was able to give Mr. Rogers a copy of the LWVUS statement on health care.

If any other Leaguers have the opportunity to meet with their congressman, it would be a good idea to take the LWVUS statement along.   See the box below for a copyable form. The LWVUS website also provides the following comments that may help in supporting health care reform along the lines of the League position.



Support Strong Health Care Reform Legislation


America is facing a health care crisis caused by a combination of skyrocketing costs and an insurance system that leaves 47 million of us without any coverage. The current health care system is endangering both our economy and our health, and voters have made it clear that they want change.  Business as usual is not an option.
 
Congress must take action to pass strong health care reform legislation that guarantees quality, safe and affordable health care to all U.S. residents including the choice of a public insurance plan.  It is universal coverage that will determine the humanity of our system. The legislation must include a benefits package that includes the prevention of disease, health promotion and education, primary care, acute care, long-term care, and mental health care.  In addition, any health care package must include prescription drug coverage and allow for pre-existing conditions.
 
Legislation must establish a system-wide program to coordinate information, establish best practices and provide consumers the information they need to protect themselves and their families.  It is essential that comparative data on treatments, benefits packages and medical outcomes be made publicly available so that individuals can make informed health decisions and so costs can be controlled.
 
Cost containment measures must take place in the context of overall health care reform. We must reduce or eliminate the cost-shifting that currently exists in health care financing and work to streamline the system.  Legislation must provide effective cost controls, equitable distribution of services and allow for efficient and economical delivery of care.

To achieve this kind of comprehensive, system-wide reform will take a shared effort by citizens and Congress.


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League of Women Voters of the United States Position Statement on Health Care

The League believes that quality, affordable health care should be available to all U.S. residents. Other U.S. health care policy goals should include the equitable distribution of services, efficient and economical delivery of care, advancement of medical research and technology, and a reasonable total national expenditure level for health care.  Furthermore, the League believes that all Americans should have access to a basic level of care that includes the prevention of disease, health promotion and education, primary care (including prenatal and reproductive health), acute care, long-term care and mental health care.

Through decades of work in their communities, League members have learned that Americans believe that fairness and responsibility, as well as access, are important values for any health care system.  We believe that healthcare reform can only succeed if it takes all these values into account.


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League Has Expanded to Facebook

LWVAL is now has a Facebook page that will enable us to relay information about League to many more Leaguers and potential Leaguers.  One our greatest challenges is membership development, particularly of younger men and women who are frequent users of all things technological.  Facebook will give us a way to extend our reach into areas frequented by these potential members.  This technology is not difficult to use and enables the user to receive frequent updates from their friends, groups, and causes.  It’s also a great way for LWVAL to reach out to other state Leagues and the LWVUS, which also has a Facebook page.  Updates from LWVUS and action alerts are posted on your page if you become a fan of their Facebook page.  The same occurs when LWVAL posts information on our site.  As a fan of the LWVAL page you receive all updates and information as it is posted.  Our page also has fan links to other pages.  League of Women Voters of Mobile, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa each have Facebook group pages.  LWVAL ‘s Facebook page contains  links to these pages that will take you to each of these discussion groups.  Currently at their request on the LWVUS page, we have become a fan of LWV-Texas.  We are also fans of a couple of other pages that provide helpful nonpartisan information. Every time we reach out to another organization we increase our network, which can assist us with membership development and with our advocacy work.  
As new technology is developed League must transition with it to continue to grow and thrive.  We are facing great challenges to move our organization from the previous century when the phone tree was the only form of communication to the Information Age with its digital users.  The greatest advantage of the Internet is that it provides incredible amounts of information and links individuals from great distances.  Alabama Leagues can harvest great benefits from utilizing this technological tool. 

The links to the League Facebook pages are:
LWVAL - http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/League-of-Women-Voters-of-Alabama/119494879019?ref=ts
LWVUS - http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/League-of-Women-Voters-of-the-US/137662367278?ref=ts      
Clicking on these links from your Voter will take you directly to the above pages.
Group Discussion Pages
To join the discussion pages you must be a member of Facebook which means you must set up a page for yourself. 
LWV-Greater Birmingham - http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=32227693013&ref=ts
LWV-Mobile -  http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=70758830601&ref=ts
LWV-Greater Tuscaloosa - http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=145590686531&ref=ts

-- Scarlett Gaddy,
Membership Chair


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State Board Assignments

The following portfolios have been assigned to board members elected at the convention in May.

MEMBERSHIP: Scarlett Gaddy
EDUCATION: Laura Hill
NATURAL RESOURCES: Joyce Lanning
FUNDRAISING: Jeanine Normand
PROGRAM/ADVOCACY: Anne Permalof

The new HEALTH CARE study will be led by Marilyn Garrett, who will be appointed to the Board at its next meeting. Jan Widell will be off-board co-chair. A number of other people have expressed an interest in working on health care, so an effective committee should soon be in place.

Jeanne Lacey will continue her valuable advice to the Natural Resources committee, and Ruth Wright will continue as a resource person  for the Program/Advocacy group. Charlotte Ward will continue as VOTER editor until someone else is willing to take the job. (Ed.’s note: PLEASE!)


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League Lobbyist

It was decided at the August State Board meeting not to replace Mary Lynn Bates as our registered state lobbyist at this time. The League will need a lobbying presence when the Legislature meets in January. At times we have depended on volunteers, usually from Montgomery or Auburn. The Board is asking for volunteers as well as for suggestions for a paid lobbyist, so that we may know our issues will be represented to the Legislature next winter. If you can volunteer or suggest someone for the lobbyist position, please contact Charlotte Ward or Kathy Byrd.

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Local League News

Tuscaloosa
The League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa (LWVGT) has enjoyed successes this summer, and also encountered challenges like those of many other leagues throughout the state and US.  First the successes:  We now have a complete Board of Directors.  We have had a Board Orientation and Planning Meeting.  We have consistently excellent programs at our monthly luncheon meetings, examining local, state, and national program issues.  And we had a very successful candidate forum that featured candidates with opposition for Tuscaloosa City Council and the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education.  Approximately 140 people attended the first half, and a similar number attended the second half.  The press coverage, both before and after, was excellent—newspaper coverage in print and in a 15 minute Town Hall interview presented on the Tuscaloosa News website, television interviews, radio shows, and even a journalism professor videoed the event for use in his journalism class.  All these successes reflect hard work on the part of the board and members.

Now for the challenges: Filling the board was a protracted process.  Some board members had hoped to have a well-deserved break from board responsibilities, but they stepped to the plate again.  Others did take a break and are missed.  But we are recycling many of the same people, who may face burnout. A number of board members could not attend the board orientation/planning session for a variety of good reasons, so decisions for the upcoming year were made by a relatively small number.  The candidate forum was an overwhelming success, bringing interest to two sets of elections that had been described previously in the press as a “yawn.”  However, many of the same Leaguers who step forward for every event also played key roles in the forum.  We need new blood.  Finally, our League has been discussing the benefits and restrictions caused from the League’s nonpartisanship policy.  The League in Alabama and in Tuscaloosa enjoys a lot of credibility/respect/clout, considering our relatively small numbers and slim budgets.  We have had to make difficult choices about when we can or cannot have declared candidates speak to our membership at regular meetings on issues of current importance.  We decided to take a more restrictive approach to ensure the nonpartisan reputation of the League in the community. It meant canceling a program by a highly visible elected official who has declared for another office in 2010.  This candidate would have no doubt provided an informative program, but we need to consider the long haul as well as being timely. 


Mobile

 The Mobile League has planned a series of meetings on the Mobile County school system as its fall emphasis. In addition, LWVM is partnering with local universities to celebrate the League’s 90th birthday. Each event will be a fun and informative movie watching evening followed by refreshments and an informal discussion with faculty and League members.

October 28th – University South Alabama Library Auditorium.  7:00pm.  Iron Jawed Angels  is an inspiring and contemporary film that tells the story of Alice Paul and her small group of suffragists who fought the conclusive battle for women’s right to vote.

January 26th – Springhill University.  Time and location to be determined.  One Woman, One Vote  documents the suffrage movement from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Alice Paul, and the struggles between those who were more militant in their approach against women and those with more conventional strategies of education and lobbying.


Baldwin County

League of Women Voters of Baldwin County (LWVBC) President Paulette Fedor sends reports of a full board of directors—except for Membership and Public Relations.  (These positions seem hard for many leagues to fill.)  Program emphases are Constitutional Reform, the Environment, and Healthcare.  Long-time LWVAL veteran Jeanne Lacey is chairing the first two committees.  Baldwin County has been at the forefront the League’s efforts on behalf of our environment.

Three board members attended the recent LWVAL board meeting via speakerphone:  Paulette Fedor, Jeanne Lacey, and Jeanine Normand.  While Jeanine is the only one officially on the state board at this time, board members are delighted to have other members statewide to listen in and contribute when appropriate.  The LWVBC was particularly helpful when the LWVAL was preparing our official comments to present for the Triennial Review of ADEM.  Our report focused on our position on Coastal Zone Management.


East Alabama

The LWVEA and the Chambers of Commerce of Auburn and Opelika are sponsoring the November 3 gubernatorial candidate forum organized by the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University.  Local members will be involved in developing the questions and helping with activities on the night of the event. The forum is scheduled for 7 pm, in the ballroom of Auburn’s new Student Center building.

At the Annual Meeting in April, the first Sue Flood Award was presented to Ginnie Bennett for her commitment and remarkable service, especially as treasurer and planning commission observer, to the local league.  The award recognizes the contributions of a local member in honor of Sue Flood, who served the local league as president, vice president, and board member in many capacities.

Cheryl Cobb, an active participant in area planning and environmental issues, was presented to 2009 Phyllis Rea Award for community service. Cheryl is a regular fixture at Auburn Planning Commission meetings and has been instrumental in incorporating the league’s position on growth issues, green spaces, land use and zoning, and livable neighborhoods in Auburn.
 
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LWVAL Board of Directors

To contact LWVAL Board or Off-Board Members, see the LWVAL Directories. If questions or difficulty with access, contact Jean Johnson at jjohnson@lwval.org or 205 871-8194.

    Co-President
    Kathryn Byrd

    Co-President & 
    Voter Editor
    Charlotte Ward

    1st Vice President
    Mary Lynn Bates

    2nd Vice President & 
    Membership Development
    Scarlett Gaddy

    Secretary
    Sarah McDonald


    Treasurer
    Ginnie Bennett


    Directors


    Education
    Laura Hill

    Hattie Kaufman

    Natural Resources
    Joyce Lanning

    Fundraising
    Jeanine Normand

    Program/Advocacy
    Anne Permaloff


    Off-Board

    Health Care Study
    Marilyn Garrett
    , Chair
    Jan Widell, Co-Chair

    ACCR Coordinator
    Nancy Ekberg

    Natural Resources Advisor
    Jeanne Lacey

    Program /Advocacy Advisor
    Ruth Wright

    Technical Coordinator
    Jean Johnson

    Transportation Coordinator
    Nancy Ekberg

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