Winter 2009 Edition
Published February 25, 2009
© 2009 League of Women Voters of Alabama
Local League News
Two inextricably intertwined projects have been reemphasized and amplified for 2008-9:
The Environmental Seminar will be held March 26, 2009 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
at the chambers of the Baldwin County Commission’s building in Bay Minette, AL
located on the northwest corner of Courthouse Square. The Environmental Committee
will present the fourth open meeting attuned to the special needs and concerns of the
northern half of this large county. This seminar, “Critical Water Issues,” will present the
results of the most recent research and latest examination of prevailing conditions in the
areas of most concern. The combined staffs and talented professionals of the Baldwin
County Commission and the mayors and councils of the municipalities volunteer their
special professional knowledge. All of the federal and state agencies have given support
to us to enable this effort.
Captain David Yeager, recently retired as Director of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, will emcee this seminar. He will also bring the latest information and data to show how the “Stormwater Authority” legislation will enable the setup for this urgently needed infrastructure. He is a staunch supporter and has combined our workshop results with his own extensive work in the environmental field.
Dr. George Crozier, called back into service as the Director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and our stalwart supporter throughout, assisted in identifying the specific needs to be addressed in Bay Minette, but will miss this meeting. He indicated he would like to take part in the Constitutional Reform Roundtable coming up later this spring.
Dr. Kevin White, Chair of Environmental Engineering, University of South Alabama, is our noted authority on “Wastewater Management” – the most critical issue at the moment. The recent population surge accompanied by rampant building under limited control has created further concerns for sewage disposal practices that may not prove safe and protective of our health and environment.
Dr. John Valentine will be back to give us his continuing research results on the Delta north of the Causeway. He will cover the Baldwin County area to the north with its unique and priceless value to be protected and its balanced chemistry undisturbed.
The extraordinary vision and efforts of the Wolf Bay Watershed group will be presented as an inspiration to this seminar for their use in planning the future of north Baldwin County and all of the non-coastal land areas. Drastic changes in land use and lack of solid guidelines post-hurricanes demands we explore and determine the best management practices for our entire land mass, lest we lose our jewels.
The League wishes the presentations from these mentors to enable the immediate action plans by the task groups and leadership to ensure we do not lose these treasures we hold dear. We wish to assure the quality of life will continue. Above all, we seek to preserve and protect the health, safety and wealth of our ecological and human resources. Therefore, we chose these educational public presentations to inform and unite us for the tasks ahead. We urge our citizens to take advantage of these magnanimous gifts of talent and insight for their understanding of the fragile nature of our beautiful, bounteous Baldwin County.
-- Jeanne Lacey,
ex-officio, for the team.
The LWVGB has focused energy on the need for a county manager for Jefferson County. This was set as one of our top issues at the planning session in the summer. The League and League members have published letters to the editor in several of the newspapers enjoying distribution in the greater Birmingham area and have written to the State Legislative local delegation asking for support for a county manager. On January 27th the GB League coordinated a press conference on the steps of the County courthouse prior to the Commission meeting. All of the local TV stations, the newspapers and one radio station appeared. We invited the Chamber of Commerce and several local organizations. With a group of about 3 dozen we filled a section of the steps but alas while we did receive some good press, we were trumped by chaos at the Commission meeting and the elephants that came to town that day. Maybe the excellent editorial in the Birmingham News the next day quoting the League was our reward. We will continue connecting with our Legislative delegation and hope that the County is provided the opportunity to hire a manager. The County is in a sad state of insolvency due to a number of unwise decisions that someone with education and background in government would have been able to help steer them clear of.
Once again a State study brought people to our meeting. The Off-Site Voting study was the subject for our January meeting. The studies seem to interest people and they tend to come prepared to discuss. The pleasant side is that we each hear ideas and viewpoints that we may not hold but the civil discussion allows us a greater understanding of differing viewpoints.
-- Virginia Randolph
The annual Legislative Forum drew a number of Leaguers and interested citizens although a majority of our nine-person delegation were unable to attend. Representative Betty Carol Graham was especially informative about the education budget and the possibility that state funds may be able to support no more than the minimum program unless federal funds become available. Senator Ted little reiterated his plan to introduce a bill to allow citizens to vote on holding a constitutional convention. Representative Lesley Vance also attended, and all graciously responded to questions from the audience.
The January general meeting was devoted to the off-site-voting consensus. In February, we will look at public transportation locally and statewide, with Nancy Ekberg and Lisa Sandt of the local transit authority as speakers.
Planning has begun for the annual meeting in April. In addition to the Phyllis Rea Award that recognizes outstanding community service, a new award named for Sue Flood will recognize outstanding service to and through the League.
-- Charlotte Ward
The LWVM congratulates the new President and the 111th Congress. We are proud of our active participation in the election process with several local projects such as our Candidates Forum for Mobile County Commissioner--District 3, Project “Vote 18,” election-day reporting for three local television stations, and the Off-Site Voting Study finalized in January.
When asked by our State President for our participation in the Off-Site Voting Study, our members jumped right in, quickly setting up two study groups and having the Mobile County Probate Judge speak to us at our monthly luncheon meeting. We learned a lot, and members came to consensus before the February 1 deadline.
Our “Vote 18” program last October was a huge success, receiving a lot of positive coverage by the local media. We are preparing to take Vote 18 back into the schools this spring and are in the process of training more facilitators. Vote 18 is a national program. It is a fun, fast-paced interactive game taught at high schools during one class period. The goal of Vote 18 is to motivate students to register to vote when they turn 18, show them the value of their vote, and motivate them to stay politically engaged over the long term.
The LWVM will host a reception for all Mobile County elected officials on March 29, 2009, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. All elected officials in Mobile County, including US and State Senators, Judges, Mayors, County Commissioners, and City Council members have been invited. This reception offers a unique opportunity to meet our elected officials, discuss current events, help them learn more about the issues important to their voters, and thank them for their public service.
We have begun our evening unit meetings for 2009. In these meetings, we objectively study selected issues. In February, we will study recycling, and in March our own member, Bethany Kraft, Executive Director of the Alabama Coastal Foundation, will speak to us about a low impact lifestyle.
The Montgomery League completed its consensus discussions on off-site voting and moved on to the study of the National Voting Compact. Our speaker for our February general meeting is Janice McDonald, Director of the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office.
On March 6th the LWVM is joining with several organizations, including the Family Sunshine Center, Faulkner University and its Jones School of Law, Lighthouse/STAR and the Domestic Violence Task Force to co-sponsor Freedom from Fear: A Mayoral Candidates' Forum on Crimes Against Women. We worked with several of these groups in the 2008 General Election to sponsor a forum for judicial and congressional candidates. The election for mayor will be held on the tenth, making this one of the last forums held. The League will be screening the questions submitted for the audience portion of Q&A.
-- Anne Permaloff
The LWVGT has been busy since the last newsletter. On January 15th, we held our second “Meet Your Legislators Night” at Tuscaloosa’s Central High School auditorium. We had six legislators attend—one cancelled at the last minute, and one showed up after declining our invitation earlier. We had 109 members in the audience, about half high school students. We received excellent press coverage. Our biggest frustration was having to pay much more for liability insurance this year ($350 vs. $50 last year) and a new building use fee this year ($260) to use what we judged to be the best venue for the goals we had for our forum: including students and the general public. The County Schools do not require insurance, but are not centrally located. A committee will meet soon to determine how to weigh the costs to benefits ratios of various locations. We will review our priorities again, then go out to find ways to fund them.
We are also beginning an update study on our local race relations position. We had our new Tuscaloosa City Chief of Police Steve Anderson speak recently about race relations in Tuscaloosa. There were some surprises for some of us who may have come with preconceived notions. We are anxious to offer support to our Tuscaloosa City School system, which is majority black by a large margin in a town where number of blacks versus whites is not far from equal. (Our Hispanic population is growing, but not sizable yet.) It will be interesting to see where this study takes us. We are wondering of other Leagues are involved in similar studies.
-- Kathy Byrd
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