Some changes happen so gradually we don't really notice them, but cumulatively the effect is significant. Population growth is one of those things. Since 1950, the population of the US has more than doubled. The population of the world has more than tripled to over 7 billion....and is still increasing. Whether the resources of the planet and technology can meet this challenge is still unknown. Urban sprawl is another slow, cumulative change. In upstate New York, between 1982 and 1997 urbanized land grew by 30% even as the population grew by only 2.6 percent.
Climate change, a change so gradual it is still being denied by some, is now having a significant impact. Kathy Rooney, Schenectady County Manager and our speaker at the League Kickoff Luncheon, listed a number of natural disasters which the County has experienced in the last seven years. The events included: major flooding in the Stockade in 2006 and a destructive ice storm in 2008; in 2009, major isolated flooding destroyed roads and bridges; in 2011, the County experienced an earthquake, a major flood, a hurricane and a tropical storm resulting in huge damage and in 2013, major floods occurred.
She had to answer the question, "How can we respond more effectively to things we never experienced before?" Kathy's answer has been "Partnership, Collaboration and Cooperation," and she has supplemented the three person disaster response office and put into place a team of people from various County departments to work cooperatively with communities and the State to deal with weather-caused disasters.
How to respond to change is the question. Resistance, anger, denial or hopelessness, common responses to change, are obviously not helpful. Change that threatens a comfortable way of life is strongly resisted. Abolition of slavery took 90 years and a civil war. Women's suffrage took 80 years to achieve. The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 to help educate women to take on their new responsibilities as voters. The League was founded as an activist organization believing that citizens should use their voting power to shape public policy and should participate in advocacy.
The League is a change agent. We study issues, take positions and advocate for needed change. Over the League's 94 year history it has fought for child labor laws, minimum wages, compulsory education, equal opportunities for women, environmental issues including the Clean Air Act and CAFE standards (corporate energy efficiency), health care reform, reproductive freedom, campaign financing, civil rights, active support for the UN, voter access, fair representation, and the list goes on.
The New York State League is currently working hard to promote the passage of the Redistricting Amendment to the NYS Constitution as well as doing studies on term limits and access to the ballot. The goal of all these efforts is to make state government more representative and responsive.
Local studies done by the LWV of Schenectady include: Manager Form of Government (we support it), Alternatives to Incarceration (now a State League item) and Women and the Law (also now a State League position).
Unanticipated change is always a risk. The League's work for equal opportunity for women has led to more women working and fewer women who have time to volunteer with the League. Such is the price of success!
But we continue to work for change to make our little part of the world a better place. We take to heart Margaret Mead's famous remark, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all that ever have."
Ruth Bonn, Lead
The State League has asked us to schedule a program on redistricting early this Fall. Redistricting in the past has favored incumbents and often is manipulated by the political party in control. The League has long favored an independent commission that would draw more rational boundaries that do not favor one political party over another. The redistricting that occurred most recently showed how skewed districts can become. Although redistricting is an important issue, we will need to find a way to attract an audience.
The Working Group on Girls wrapped up its year of activity in May with a celebration for girls and the special women in their lives. A total of 220 girls, family members, friends, muses, and the Working Group on Girls committee attended the function. The League is proud of this program that requires great commitment of many volunteers, and collaboration among organizations. It is a tribute to the Working Group on Girls that it has been able to sustain and build a program over a ten year period that helps Schenectady girls realize their potential and strengths.
We would like to congratulate Joanne Tobiessen for receiving the Community Hero Award from the Schenectady Foundation in May for her work with Working Group on Girls. She richly deserves this recognition. The Working Group on Girls also received the Community Golden Award from the Foundation.
Joan Elliott, Lead