Making Democracy Work

Steering Committee

June Message from the Steering Committee

Our annual meeting always gives us a chance to see League members we have not seen in awhile and to catch up on their lives. So, the annual meeting is fun and social. It conducts business and importantly, it also gives the Steering Committee and the League Board a chance to hear about your ideas for programs and issues that interest you and inform others in the community. We look to you to give us your feedback on new committees you would like to see or tell us if our current committees need to be rethought.

The Board held a special meeting in May to talk about the local League and changes we might consider to make ourselves a more effective organization. (We came up with no magic, no panaceas, and no big solutions.) We did talk of ways that we could collaborate with other organizations in programming, how we could delegate more effectively and how to have more members involved in time-limited activities which fit our membership's often busy, "retired" lives. We also noted that we have a lot of "doers" but need to cultivate more "organizers." We also have a number of "behind the scene" workers whom we want to recognize.

In assessing the past, we agreed some of the most successful programs have been on agriculture (a series), consolidation, common core, educational financing inequities, and the grand jury system.

The Board acknowledged the need for use of more technology but how that would be implemented was uncertain. The key question is how do we begin to use social media to build our community but one that is more than an on-line community.

These kinds of discussions will continue at our July old/new Board orientation and planning session so any of you who have ideas, please let us know.

The League is fortunate to have as its keynote speaker at its June 10th annual meeting, former New York State Senator CeCe Tkaczyk. Considered a "non-traditional" political office seeker when she ran for a seat in the New York State Senate, she can provide insights into the difficulties of running for office and the pluses and minuses of gender in politics.

Former Schenectady County Judge Karen Drago will be honored with the League's Susan B. Anthony award for extraordinary service to the community. Judge Drago was known for her commitment to alternative treatment courts that dealt with defendants who had alcohol and other substance abuse problems and mental health issues in addition to their legal offenses.

Without competition for the two seats for the Schenectady City School District Board of Education, the League cancelled its candidates forum. The League commends the citizens who run for School Board seats in school districts throughout Schenectady County for their contributions to their communities.

Unfortunate Action: The Schenectady County Legislature, with the exception of Legislator Karen Johnson, voted to ask the New York State Legislature to rescind the SAFE Act which requires strict gun controls. The gun lobby has been persistent in lobbying the County to support repeal of the gun measure passed in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shootings. The League of Women Voters supports gun control legislation.

Joan Elliott, Lead

May Message from the Steering Committee

You might ask, since we'll be voting on the budget for the League at the annual dinner on June 10th, what are my dues used for? Of the total, 33% goes to the State League and 53% is paid to the National League in per member payments, leaving about $973 to fund the activities of our local League. Fortunately, we have other revenue sources for the local League- more on that in a moment.

Most of the money sent to the State and National Leagues is used to support advocacy on issues of interest to League members. Those issues have been defined by positions that were developed and approved by local Leagues throughout the state and country.

Our State and National Leagues send letters and testify before legislators and state and federal agencies and file amicus (friend of the court) briefs in state and federal courts. Local Leagues receive information from the State and National Leagues as summaries of news articles and in-depth analysis of issues.

At least as important to members as advocacy, however, is the educational mission of the League. In fact, many of the activities that are most closely identified with the League in the mind of the public are educational in nature- voter registration, candidate forums, voter guides, VOTE411.org, Who's Who, Students Inside Albany; not to mention supporting materials for the studies and updates that guide League positions. Lobbying activities, which are funded by dues, are not tax-deductible (which is why your dues are not tax-deductible). The State League has an Education Foundation, in which our local League has an account, which can accept tax-deductible contributions to fund educational activities. That's why we ask you to write separate checks to the Schenectady League and to the LWVNYS Education Foundation.

The $973 in dues money that the local League keeps covers a number of important activities. The bulletin costs about $2100/year in printing and mailing costs, of which $500 is defrayed by ads. The Who's Who guide is published in alternate years and the cost is covered by ads. Videotaping of candidate forums is budgeted to cost $1400. We also budget $700 and $2200 to send members to the State and National League conventions, respectively, which occur in alternate years. The LWVNYS Education Foundation pays $600 to send a high school student to Students Inside Albany; we think this is such a valuable program that we send an additional student with money from our local League.

As you've no doubt noticed, this comes out to a lot more than $973. We depend on members' generous support of fundraisers, such as the silent auction planned for the annual meeting on June 10th, to fund these valuable activities. Thank you for your continuing support.

Cheryl Nechamen, Lead

April Message from the Steering Committee

The State has a new e-mail retention policy, or more accurately, an e-mail deletion policy. The executive branch handles the nuts and bolts of State government, the daily interaction between bureaucracy and citizens. E-mail is essentially the record of that interaction.

The new policy of the State government is automatic deletion of executive branch e-mails after 90 days. State employees have the option of saving and archiving what they consider to be important e-mails but the default setting is deletion. The problem is that state employees may only realize an e-mail exchange is important in retrospect, possibly years after the exchange has taken place. Lawsuits can take months, even years, to wend their way through the courts. How often will a case be dismissed because the underlying evidence, an e-mail exchange, is no longer in the State archives? Likewise, freedom of information requests often cover time periods that exceed 90 days.

On January 29, 2014, good government groups, including LWVNYS, Citizens Union, NYCLU, Sunlight Foundation, Citizen Action and many others, submitted a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that the State conform to the federal policy of retaining e-mails for seven years.

Electronic storage is cheap; the cost of destroying public records is very high. It's time for the Governor to reverse this policy.

Cheryl Nechamen, Lead

STEERING COMMITTEE

Joan Elliott

Lead for May 2015-July 2015

Ruth Bonn

Lead (completed)

Carol Furman

Lead (completed)

Cheryl Nechamen

Lead (completed)