Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for May 2019

Focus is the monthly newsletter of the League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk Counties.

President's Column

Diana BodtkerDiana Bodtker

Being optimistic is a source of happiness for me. The arrival of spring after a long dark winter always makes me optimistic about the world in general. And this in spite of all the dandelions in my yard. Dandelions are a sunny yellow, aren't they?

Confidence in the younger generation is another source of optimism for me. This last Sunday while Easter dinner was being prepared our family's young mother was outside practicing a presentation she was planning to make to her home town city council in hopes of being selected for the budget committee. Her husband was timing her and her father made suggestions on how to present her ideas. Meanwhile inside, another young member of the family was talking about her soon-to be-completed graduate program in archeology. Her research is being aided by the Bureau of Land Management. Both young women provide positive examples of citizen and government interaction.

A recent presentation at City Club on current successful plastic recycling research also increases my optimism levels. Plastics are made from natural gas and petroleum and are major polluters of our environment. One goal is to make a closed loop of plastic production and use. As an example, the plastic that is used to cover a bale of hay can be recycled as diesel to fuel the farmer's tractor. With clean separation by type, plastic waste becomes a valuable commodity.

You can watch the City Club program on cable Channel 21 on April 27 at 1:00 PM or May 1 at 4:00 PM.

I am no Pollyanna, but a good dose of renewed optimism makes me believe our future is in responsible hands and that our efforts for the good of our world can make a real difference.

Happy spring!

Sandra Gangle on "The State of the World"

Sandra Gangle (pictured at right) is a retired attorney and arbitrator. She is a Sandra Gangleformer president of LWVMPC, who now lives in Camas. Sandra's presentation is based on the lectures she heard at Oxford University last September at a Road Scholar program called "The State of the World".  She will focus on the breakdown of the 20th Century Liberal International Order, which was comprised of institutions like the UN, WTO, NATO and various international treaties, and the establishment of new relationships between nations that are mostly bi-lateral or regional.  She will answer the questions: How did we get here?  What does this mean to the world's future?  Is there any hope for positive change? The Salem Public Library is a cosponsor of this event.

Public Forum: Candidates for Salem-Keizer School Board

Candidates for the Salem-Keizer School Board will tell why they are running, what they hope to accomplish if elected, and answer questions at a public forum on Thursday, May 2, from 6 - 8 p.m. in the Salem Public Library's Anderson Rooms (lower level).

The candidates represent districts but are elected at large by all voters. This year's candidates are:

Zone 2: Marty Heyen (incumbent; retired IT professional) and
Raul Marquez (Willamette University student)
Zone 4: Satya Chandragiri (psychiatrist) and David Salinas (electrician)
Zone 6: Chuck Lee (incumbent; President of Mountain West Career Technical Institute) and
Danielle Bethell (Director of Keizer Chamber of Commerce)

Audience at candidate forumThis is a public forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and Salem City Club. Everyone is encouraged to attend to hear the candidates, ask questions, and compare the candidates before voting.

Election Information on VOTE411.org

For the May 21st election there will be nine school-district board elections in Marion County, four in Polk County plus Chemeketa Community College Board positions. Voters in Polk County will also decide on whether to extend Polk County's 2015 Public Safety Bond another five years. 

Information about the candidates for each of these districts and the bond measure will be on the LWV-sponsored http://VOTE411.org. Many thanks to Janet Adkins for inputting the data.

Hot Topics: Beth Hays on Low-Income Housing

Jean Sherbeck, Chair of Interest Group on Homelessness

In February Beth Hayes, CEO of Community Resource Trust, talked with our group on the topic, "Putting Together the Puzzle of Developing a Low Income Housing Project." Community Resource Trust is a non-profit corporation that oversees and manages a variety of non-profit and charitable projects.

She used the Cornerstone Apartments project on Portland Road as the example of one project that she coordinated with many partnering entities. Construction is still going on, but some renters have moved in to their new apartments. There will be a total of 180 apartments for households at or below 60% of the Area Median Income. The unit mix will be 48 three-bedroom, 95 two-bedroom, 25 one-bedroom, and 12 studio apartments. Also, on-site and nearby will be many services provided by a variety of organizations, including case management, life skills classes, medical, dental and mental health care, child care, and Head Start. A food pantry and community garden are included on site. The Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA are located nearby. There is a waiting list of applicants.

Many organizations have been involved with providing funding from grants, tax-exempt bonds, development funds, utilities and road construction, low income housing tax credits, construction loans, etc. These organizations include Mountain West Investment Corporation, Key Bank, Key Bank Development Lending & Investment, Oregon Housing and Community Services, the IRS (tax credits), City of Salem, and Community Resource Trust. Beth supplied a diagram that illustrated how these organizations fit together to fund the whole.

Attendees at this talk were very appreciative of the support and many services that will be provided to Cornerstone residents by neighboring non-profits, DHS, Northwest Human Services, Marion-Polk Food Share, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, and others.

We thank Beth Hays for her time to speak with us and for the valuable work she performed to fit together the funding puzzle to make this project a reality.

Highlights of Visit to ARCHES

Notes by Sally Hollemon

Ten LWVMPC members visited ARCHES in mid March to learn about that agency's projects to reduce homelessness.

Ashley Hamilton (pictured at right), Associate Program Director, explained that ARCHES is a department of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA). CAAs are a federal program established in 1964 to involve communities in efforts to reduce poverty. The Mid-Willamette Valley CAA mainly covers Marion and Polk Counties. ARCHES is funded by government and some foundation grants.

Most homeless people live in Wallace Marine Park (approximately 300 people live there) and in the downtown area. ARCHES is located just north of downtown at 615 Commercial NE to be near the people who need their services. However, Ms. Hamilton said that during the annual count of homeless people held on January 31st it was discovered that many homeless people had never contacted ARCHES, so now teams go out into the community to offer services to homeless people.

Each person who comes to ARCHES is evaluated for level of vulnerability, an interview that takes 20-30 minutes and gives the interviewee an opportunity to be heard and to explain their problems and needs. Efforts are made to put the people with the most vulnerabilities into permanent housing. The top 2% (34 people out of more than 1650 people who were evaluated) cost the system $2 million for health care due to the number of times they go to the hospital emergency department. Placing them in permanent housing allows them to work on their mental-health issues, substance abuse, and other problems.

People with fewer issues are assisted to find housing or to prevent losing the housing they have, such as by taking a class called RENT on how to be a good tenant. ARCHES has 900 active mailboxes where homeless people can receive mail. It provides health screenings, pet food, and vouchers for haircuts.

Veteran Service Officers help veterans access their benefits, and employees called Navigators help people find appropriate benefits, such as SNAP (food stamps) as well as obtain copies of their birth certificates, needed for many purposes. ARCHES also makes referrals to appropriate agencies, several of which are located in the same building, such as the Oregon Law Center.

ARCHES is a day shelter and offers box lunches on weekdays. Ms. Hamilton is looking forward to completion of a commercial kitchen this summer so they can offer hot lunches and serve more people. Evening meals that used to be offered under the bridge are now offered in the parking lot. When the building renovation is completed, which is expected to be in August, meals will be offered indoors. Computer and telephone access will also be available.

When the renovation is completed, the shelter area will be open 24/7. It will include bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities as well as a detox center staffed by nurses when they are funded by the City of Salem. However, the space is not large enough to shelter all the people who need shelter. While inadequate, there is more shelter space for men in Salem-Keizer than for women and children. Yet, about half of the homeless are women, and 76% of them have experienced domestic violence. About 14% are families.

The median age for homeless people is 45. Eighty-five percent are white. Lack of a support system is the #1 reason for homelessness. Hispanics and Asians are more inclined than are other people to take in family members even if it creates crowding. Salem has a higher percentage of homeless people because of the prisons located in our area. When people are released here, they tend to stay here, and they may not have family nearby. Twenty-six percent of homeless people are on probation or parole. Many of them can't go home because they are ashamed of what they've done or their families are ashamed of what they've done.

Ms. Hamilton said that street people often smell of urine, partly because of the lack of bathrooms. Even in Wallace Park, the restrooms are locked at night because a few people were destructive or otherwise made them unavailable to other people. Women often deliberately smell bad to avoid sexual assault. In addition to lack of toilet facilities, there are insufficient trash containers (and pickup).

Surprisingly, rain doesn't affect attendance at the day shelter, but temperature does; the colder the weather, the more people come. The average is 170 people per day.

Most homeless people have some income, the average is $6000 per year. The people with the highest number of vulnerabilities have less than $5000, while people who are housed but close to losing it have $10,000 or more. So homeless people can buy food at the grocery store, but of course it has to be food that doesn't require refrigeration or cooking. They can't get food boxes from Food Share because they don't have a way to transport the boxes nor a place to store the food.

Ms. Hamilton said it's a myth that homeless people have nothing to do. They have to know when and where meals and shelter are available and get themselves there as well as to other appointments they may have. She added that there is no evidence to support the myth that providing good facilities and services to homeless people brings more homeless people. No one has ever said they were bused here from Portland, and Salem homeless people don't go to Eugene to find better services.

ARCHES needs hygiene supplies, including toothpaste, shampoo, tampons and pads. Hygiene donations may be dropped off at ARCHES, 615 Commercial St. NE. Monetary donations may be made online on the MWVCAA website at http://www.mwvcaa.org/invest_in_us.html.

Oregon Votes by Mail

A video on the history of Oregon's Vote-by-Mail system produced by CCTV and including LWV Voter Service cochair Kathleen West as a panel member can be viewed at https://youtu.be/C4YFMJn2MNs.

THINK BEFORE YOU INK

READ the initiative petition and then consider the following before signing it:
Is it TOO COMPLEX? - Some decisions may be simple yes or no votes. Other decisions will affect many areas of government. Make sure you understand the implications and consequences if this petition becomes law.

Is it CLEAR? Some proposals aren't well-written. They may have conflicts requiring court interpretations or resolutions.

If the initiative is a constitutional measure, does it BELONG in the Constitution? Is it a fundamental law that should be protected? Changes or mistakes would require another (costly) election to amend the Oregon Constitution.

Is it an "unfunded mandate?" Would the Legislature need to pull funds from other essential programs? Initiatives should generally not earmark, restrict, or obligate specific General Fund revenue percentages.

Before you sign, ask to see ID. Paid gatherers must carry photo ID issued by the Secretary of State. If they don't have the required ID, you can reasonably wonder why. Numerous instances of fraud could have been avoided by insisting on seeing ID.

Like LWVMPC on Facebook!

Barbara Sellers-Young, Publicity Chair

Thanks to Kathleen Mason we were able to get our Facebook page up.

See LWVMPC page

If you click on "like" it, you'll receive notices from Facebook that will keep you updated on League events and related activities.

League Lingo

Program -- It all starts with the several steps of Program:
  • Program Planning + members submit ideas of governmental issues that different levels of League (national, state or local) should consider for study.
  • Program Adoption - Selected governmental issues are chosen by the membership at local, state and national levels for study and member agreement in the upcoming year/biennium at Conventions or Annual Meetings. Those governmental issues that League members choose for concerted study usually lead to a new position and potential action/advocacy. 
  • Programs - Forums or other meetings with speakers or discussion or other activities which may be based on League Positions or on issues the League members want to learn about.

Position -- statement of policy



To most in the public policy world, "taking a position" on something means that the organization or person actively supports or opposes a particular piece of legislation.  

To the League, a Position is the statement of governmental policy based on member research, study and agreement. A Position is approved by the appropriate board (national, state or local) once study and member agreement is complete. Positions that have been approved are written up in Impact on Issues (national), Issues for Action (state) and on our local League website <http://LWVmarionpolk.org> under Position Statements. Synopses of national, state and local Positions are in our LWVMPC membership directory.

League Positions do not support or oppose any particular piece of legislation. They are statements of general principles against which specific legislation or ballot measure can be measured to determine whether or not the League can support or oppose it.



Action -- Positions form the basis for League Action/Advocacy 



The boards of the respective Leagues use the previously approved Position statements to determine support or opposition to a specific piece of legislation or to influence governmental decisions by supporting policies, budgets, comprehensive plans and initiatives or referenda. League leaders may also use public forums or other means to develop public support for League goals.
 

Who can speak for the League?



The president at each level of the League is the official spokesperson, although she/he can authorize others to speak for the League.  

League members are encouraged to contact their legislators and speak for themselves; applicable personal experience is especially valuable in showing legislators how proposed legislation would affect people's lives.

LWV Mission Statement Explained

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League carries out its mission in two ways:

1) Education of voters with unbiased, factual information on issues and candidates appearing on a ballot, so citizens can cast an informed vote; and

2) Advocacy for public policy issues only after members have studied each issue and reached a consensus position.

The League never supports or opposes any political candidate or political party, and any use of the League of Women Voters name in campaign advertising or literature has not been authorized by the League.