Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for October 2019

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

Ryan Pollard to Speak on Homelessness & Education

Our speaker on October 16 will be Ryan Pollard, the Community Engagement Coordinator for Taylor's House and the HOME Youth & Resource Center. Both programs are under the auspices of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency. Ryan will explain the services each program provides to homeless and at-risk youth in our community and their strong policies of supporting each youth with their educational goals.


The following is excerpted from an article by Rachel Alexander in Salem Reporter, January 21, 2019

Taylor's House is Salem's newest shelter, a home for teens and young people between 11 and 18 who are home-less or in foster care and don't have another place to go.

Employees work with teens on completing high school or a GED, finding work and resolving family problems. "The idea is to be more than a roof over their heads," said Tricia Ratliff, the program director for the home, youth and resource center at Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, which runs the shelter.

Though teenage homelessness is often less visible than adult homelessness, it's a significant problem in Salem. There are roughly 1,100 homeless young people in the Salem-Keizer school district, according to state data. Of those, 59 are unsheltered, and 174 don't have a parent or guardian in their lives. That doesn't count teens who have graduated or dropped out of school.

Before the shelter opened, a few young people were sleeping in the doorway of the drop-in center at night, she said. For them, it was safer than sleeping in a park with adults. It's been nearly a decade since Salem had a shelter or program to house homeless minors other than a few beds on an emergency basis, said Stephen Goins, who runs transitional programs for Northwest Human Services.

HOME Youth & Resource Center

The following information is from the HYRC website

HOME Youth & Resource Center (HYRC) is a drop-in resource center for youth between the ages of 11 and 18. It provides a safe, supportive environment where youth can have their immediate needs met while positively connecting with their community. All services are free.

The day resource center is open from noon to 7 p.m., 365 days a year. If offers access to basic needs such as laundry, showers, three meals daily, food boxes, clothes, toiletries, computers, TV & gaming, transportation, ID documents and more.

HYRC provides street and community outreach including follow-up to youth-run reports filed with law enforcement in Salem and Keizer as well as case management and guidance for all youth at the Center. The Youth Empowerment Program provides paid internships for youth 14-18 years old along with job and life-skills training. The program provides positive adult relationships with staff, college interns and community leaders.

In addition to the day center, HYRC operates an emergency shelter that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, there are only ten beds available (co-ed). The shelter has a structured program to help youth find safety, stability and their place in the community.

Salem Peace Lecture on Climate Change

Sarah MyhreLiving, Loving and Loathing on a Hot and Finite Planet is the topic of the 30th Salem Peace Lecture to be given by Sarah Myhre, Ph.D. on Wednesday, October 16, 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Steward Rogers Music Center's Hudson Recital Hall on the Willamette University campus.

Dr. Myhre (pronounced my-ree) is a scientist and public advocate for human rights. A paleoceanographer with expertise in social and ecological decision-making, she is at the front lines of addressing rapid climate change. She does research on carbon drawdown solutions in the global ocean.

Bill Hayden will receive the Peacemaker of the Year award at the Salem Peace Lecture. Bill Hayden is a life-long peace activist through his volunteer work, advocacy and leadership touching a wide range of issues, including racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights and immigrant and farm-worker rights. The League of Women Voters is a long-time cosponsor of the Salem Peace Lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Great Decisions 2020

If you're interested in discussing foreign-policy issues, join Great Decisions in 2020. The year's topics will be Climate Change & the Global Order, India & Pakistan, Red Sea Security, Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking, U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle, China's Road into Latin America, The Philippines & the U.S., Artificial Intelligence & Data. We'll order our briefing books from the nonprofit Foreign Policy Association this fall.

So, if you'd like to join us beginning in January on the 3rd Saturday each month, notify Sally Hollemon, or 503-391-8978 right away. She will order the books during the fall pre-order period when we'll get a discount, making each book cost about $30.

Superintendent Christy Perry Spoke About Salem-Keizer Schools

Supt. Christy PerryChristy Perry, Superintendent of Salem-Keizer Schools, spoke at the Fall Brunch of the League of Women Voters on Saturday, September 21.

Supt. Perry said that Salem-Keizer is the second largest school district in Oregon. It is a growing district with 42,327 students in 65 schools. The district is getting children from the Portland area because housing costs there are increasing so fast that families move to Salem and commute to Portland for their jobs.

Nearly 60% of Salem-Keizer students are considered to be living in poverty--that's 3 in 5 children. 1,122 students experienced homelessness in 2017-18, and the numbers increase by approximately 100 students each year. Due to high rates of poverty, all students at the feeder schools to McKay H.S. and North H.S. receive free breakfast and lunch each school day.

Eighty-one languages are spoken in our schools, so the district has a Translation Department for Spanish and other languages spoken by many students and uses a translation service for languages spoken by only a few students.

The high-school graduation rate has inched up to 77%. Supt. Perry said that if students can stay in our district through their school years, they will be successful. Students who enter our district behind where they should be will grow more than a year's worth of skill/knowledge each year. However, it is critical for youngsters in the English Language Development (ELD) program to complete it before they enter high school because high-school ELD students do poorly. ELD students who are sufficiently competent in English so they can leave that program before they enter high school will outperform the native-English speaking students.

Refugees come from very traumatized families and situations. Those who come as 16-year-olds probably won't be able to earn a high-school diploma, but the district's goal for them is completion, which may be a GED because a GED allows them to go to community college.

The district's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offers many courses including Agriculture and Agriscience; Basic Nursing Assistant; Computer-Aided Drafting; Computer Programming; Cosmetology; Culinary Arts; Drone Technology & Robotics; Early Childhood Education; Emergency Services; Environmental Science,; Health & Pharmacy Service; Law Enforcement; Manufacturing, Welding & Engineering; Marketing; Sports Medicine and more. A student can attend any of the 35 CTE courses, which are offered on various campuses. For students who take the whole program in one CTE area the graduation rate is 98%. For students who take only one CTE class the graduation rate is 88%, which is higher than for the student body as a whole.

Salem-Keizer has worked to reduce the school drop-out rate from 3.95% in 2013-14 to 3.34% in 2017-18, a rate which is lower than the state rate of 3.55%.

In answer to a question about mental health, Supt. Perry said that many kids come to school with mental-health issues, even children as young as elementary school. So how to self-regulate has become part of the school curriculum. Ideally, Supt. Perry would have a mental-health provider in every school and two providers in each high school.

Supt. Perry brought two teachers with her,Drew Moneke and Sharlee Blackwell Drew Moneke and Sharlee Blackwell, who explained their work.

Sharlee Blackwell, a bilingual teacher of Spanish and English, explained the steps needed to become proficient in a new language--listen, speak, read, write. (She added that similar steps are needed to learn any new skill.)

She uses students' first language as a jump start for acquiring a second language. For example: mástil = mast. This encourages students to see that they know more than they realized.

Ms. Blackwell said she uses culturally appropriate stories with her students who are learning English. Kids need fun, safe and welcoming schools, role models, and consistency. An enthusiastic teacher, Ms. Blackwell added that knowing two languages is an asset.

Drew Moneke teaches History and Civics at West Salem High School. His goal is "outward mindset." Behaviors are driven by students' interior feelings. As a teacher he works to change the mindset (self-awareness) of students to help them see themselves as people who can make a difference in society.

Mr. Moneke said he is passionate about history and teaching it to his students. He added that, while Civics is a specialized class in high school, civics is also taught as part of other classes from elementary school through high school with the goal of teaching youngsters about government and voting.

Climate Chaos

Highlights of speech by Dominick DellaSalaDominick DellaSala

Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala is President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland and was President of the Society for Conservation Biology, North America Section, from 2008-2014. He is the author of over 200 technical papers on forest and fire ecology, conservation biology, endangered species management, and landscape ecology. He was the keynote speaker at the LWVOR Convention in May 2019. The following notes are by Sally Hollemon.

Dr. DellaSala began his talk by saying that he no longer refers to "climate change" He calls it "climate chaos" to show how serious the issue is. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate and scale. He showed a photo of a banner that hangs over a main street in Grants Pass: "It's the Climate." Dr. DellaSala dubbed in a banner underneath that asked: "What are you going to do about it?"

A recent UN report stated in 2018 that the world has a dozen years left before civilization itself may be on the brink of collapse. Evidence of the environmental damage that has already occurred: There has been an unprecedented increase in CO2 in the environment. Half of the world's forests are gone along with their ability to absorb carbon. 1000 species may be extinct due to human activity.

Thinning forests is ineffective during extreme events of heat and drying. Taking out the big trees to pay for thinning of small trees is the opposite of what should happen since the big trees are more fire-resistant. Further, less than one percent of thinned forest is hit by fire; dry vegetation and winds that carry burning vegetation spread fire. Therefore, homes built in forest areas should be "hardened" by being built of fire-resistant materials, removing vegetation near structures, and planting fire-resistant landscaping.

We need a strong Clean Energy Jobs Bill. [Note: That bill was before the Oregon Legislature at the time he spoke. The measure failed to get a vote.] We should protect our wild lands and protect the big trees.

Furthermore, the environmental and various justice movements should work together to enact laws to protect the earth from further environmental damage because the carbon already in the atmosphere will stay there for a long time and continue to affect the climate.

Dr. DellaSala urged voters to ask candidates running for office in 2020 the following questions:

Do you believe in climate change?
What is your vision for a safe climate?
How would you achieve that vision if elected?

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


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 <> 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.