Making Democracy Work

President's Report

Messages from your LWV President

President's Letter for December

As part of an effort to attract grant funding, the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority (SMHA) has expanded and formalized its governance structure, with a prominent role for the Schenectady League of Women Voters.

The SMHA has long had Tenant Delegates representing residents on the Board of Commissioners which oversees SMHA operations. In one of our many roles as a good government group, the League has provided oversight of the Tenant Delegate election process. In recent years, Joan Elliott, Dick Shave and Helga Schroeter have reviewed nominating petitions to make sure the petitions were signed by SMHA residents. If there are multiple candidates for the two seats open this year, the League will provide monitors for the election, which would be held on March 27 from noon-8pm, at 3 locations.

New this year, the SMHA is forming a Downtown Resident Council, composed of residents of the 420 downtown MHA units. The Resident Councils work to improve the quality of life for SMHA residents, hearing complaints and organizing social events. The SMHA has asked the League to also monitor this process, starting with a meeting to nominate candidates on November 14th and then an election, if necessary, on December 18th from noon-8pm at one location. The League receives a small stipend in return for these services.

The final piece in improving the governance structure of the SMHA is the formation of a 5-member Board of Elections to hear any disputes that may arise in the Tenant Delegate election. The SMHA has asked the League to staff the Board of Elections.

As you can see, this is quite an expansion of the League's role in assisting with SMHA elections and we could use your help! In the past, the Tenant Delegates have generally been unopposed and therefore an election wasn't necessary. The Downtown Resident Council and the Board of Elections are new so we don't know whether there will be an election or any possible disputes. But we want to be prepared and have League members ready to step in as monitors and Board of Elections members.

If you would like to be involved in this process, please contact Joan Elliott.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter for November

In addition to local races this year, there will be three proposals on the ballot.

The first proposal concerns whether to hold a Constitutional Convention. Specifically, the proposal is "Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?"

The State Constitution requires that this question be brought before the voters every 20 years. The last Convention that was actually held was in 1967. Much of the State Constitution is based on the Convention of 1894 with numerous amendments made through the legislative process in the meantime. Not only has this resulted in the most verbose constitution in the nation, but things have changed quite a bit in 123 years. Clearly, there's a need for a convention to streamline and update the Constitution.

The optimists in the state also view the convention as an opportunity to enact ethics reform. Updating the Constitution and the possibility of ethics reform were the primary reasons why the State League decided to support holding a Constitutional Convention.

It was not a unanimous decision. Those opposing a convention are concerned about the delegate selection process, the cost and the possibility of losing certain provisions currently in the Constitution.

The second ballot proposal is in response to New Yorkers' frustration with corrupt politicians, convicted of serious crimes, collecting a state pension. The wording of the proposal is "Allowing the Complete or Partial Forfeiture of a Public Officer's Pension if He or She is Convicted of a Certain Type of Felony. The proposed amendment to section 7 of Article 2 of the State Constitution would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer's duties." This proposal is self-explanatory.

Proposal number three would authorize the use of forest preserve land for specified purposes. Essentially, this proposal would allow local governments in the Adirondack Park to use land in the forest preserve to do repairs on highways and bridges and to build bicycle paths, broadband internet and water wells as long as additional land is added to the forest preserve in exchange.

Don't forget to vote on the ballot proposals- they're on the back side of the ballot.

Cheryl Nechamen

President's Letter for October

We had a successful day of registering voters on National Voter Registration Day, September 26. League members were at a wide variety of locations, including colleges, supermarkets, libraries, food pantries, and more.

This is one of the League's most visible and most appreciated services to the public. It also provides a great opportunity for League members to contribute to the organization and to the community. Thank you for your help!

Candidate forums are another crucial service provided by the League and October is the month for forums (plus one forum that occurred on Sept. 27th for Schenectady City Council). There are many ways to help out at candidate forums- as moderator, timekeepers, question collectors (collect index cards with questions from the audience) and question checkers (consolidate questions on the same topic, weed out inappropriate questions).

With candidate forums for the City of Schenectady and Towns of Niskayuna, Glenville and Rotterdam, covering candidates for city, town and county offices, the assistance of many League members is needed.

Even more important than helping out at a candidate forum is encouraging friends and neighbors to attend the forum. Politicians are often charming when talking to individual voters and can tailor their answers to what they think the voter wants to hear. It's a very different situation, however, when a candidate appears at a public forum, being asked questions that are not known ahead of time and giving answers that are heard by a roomful of voters. It can be quite illuminating for the voter (and rather scary for the candidate!).

The State League of Women Voters has made a change in policy this year. Candidates running unopposed for office will not be allowed to participate in forums. Instead, they will be introduced from the audience and allowed to talk privately with voters at the end of the forum.

The State League believes in voter choice and nonpartisanship and decided that allowing the public to ask questions of unopposed candidates during the forum was, in effect, supporting that candidate.

We'll see how this works out in practice.

Cheryl Nechamen

Letter supporting the work of the SCCC

The following letter was sent by LWV President Cheryl Nechamen on behalf of the League and in support of the work of SCCC.

Jennifer Miller, Director of Community College Support SUNY System Administration Office of Community Colleges and the Educational Pipeline SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway Albany, NY 12204 Dear Ms. Miller: The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County enthusiastically supports Schenectady County Community College's application to the SUNY Community College Community Schools (CCCS) grant. Schenectady County Community College (SCCC), in collaboration with an array of public, private and nonprofit partners, seeks to support high need students, and to build a network of accessible, on-campus, non-academic resources essential to successfully retaining and graduating these students.

The proposed SCCC Community Schools initiative, DESTINATION: SUCCESS, integrates college resources and community based services for students and their families through a centralized location on the College's campus. SCCC's DESTINATION: SUCCESS is aimed at increasing student retention rates of high-needs students by directly connecting them to multiple community resources available to support them through life's non-academic challenges. On-campus support will help students to navigate and address such issues as employment, food, housing, finances, childcare, primary care and mental health services, legal support, transportation, and other day-to-day needs than can negatively impact student success.

The League of Women Voters will partner with SCCC to develop and implement this important initiative. The League will hold voter registration drives on campus to increase the number of new voters. During the voter registration drives, pamphlets will be available that help students who may have felony convictions, disabilities or who are homeless which will enable them to exercise their right to vote.

The League distributes information on candidates and issues during election campaigns. In addition, the League has a long history of holding educational programs on local, state and national issues that will help students to become active and informed participants in our country.

The proposed DESTINATION: SUCCESS initiative is designed to improve SCCC's retention and graduation rates by significantly scaling up the College's ongoing efforts to provide support to its diverse and ever-changing student population. Providing on-campus access to crucial services will give SCCC students the support they need. This, in turn, will further strengthen student's families, our larger community, and our region. We enthusiastically support the College's application for SUNY Community Schools grant funding.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Nechamen

President

League of Women Voters of Schenectady County