Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for September 2018

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

President's Column

Diana BodtkerDiana Bodtker

Each September the new League year coincides with the new school year. Perhaps we can't look forward to a new backpack with freshly sharpened pencils, a bottle of Elmer's glue and a new Pink Pearl eraser, but we do have many activities and volunteer opportunities to which we can look forward.

Our Fall Brunch is coming up September 15. This is always a great way to kick off the new League year. Peter Fernandez, Director of Public Works, will be our speaker. He will be talking about Salem's water supply as well as other things related to the city's infrastructure. Bring a guest for this important event.

This is, of course, election time once again, so we will be doing what we do best. We will provide unbiased information on the ballot measures through the LWVOR Voters' Guide for the public as well as ourselves. We will work in cooperation with CCTV to have candidate forums. We will have a local Oregon Senate candidates' roundtable co-sponsored by City Club. We will present the ballot measures at Capital Manor with taping by CCTV.

All of these activities and events have many details to make them successful. They will require time keepers, greeters, runners, proof readers, Voters Pamphlet editors and deliverers, table arrangers and many other tasks I am probably forgetting. This is the time to say "yes" if asked to do one of these. Some will require less time investment than others but all are important.

See you September 15th for the Brunch.

Fall Membership Brunch

Peter FernandezPeter Fernandez, Salem Director of Public Works, will speak on "Salem's Water." He will address Salem's recent water crisis--what happened, how it was resolved and planning for future water security for all of Salem.

Mr. Fernandez is the Public Works Director at the City of Salem Public Works Department, a department with over 450 full- and part-time employees and annual operating and capital budgets of $90 million and $100 million, respectively. The department provides a wide variety of services to a municipality of 164,000 residents and a service area of 220,000, including:

Treatment, delivery and storage of drinking water
Collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater
Flood control, storm water collection, and environmental stewardship
In addition he supervises:
Streets and parks maintenance and operations
Planning, engineering and project delivery for all city-funded capital projects
City recreation services including the senior center

Peter has over 30 years of experience in engineering, planning and public administration. He has worked at the City of Salem Public Works Department since 1995 holding the positions of Director (since 2007), Assistant Director, and Transportation Services Manager. In 2010 he also served as Acting Deputy City Manager. Prior to his tenure in Salem, Peter worked at the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, Barton-Aschman Associates, Inc., and Miami-Dade County.

Peter is a registered professional engineer in Oregon, Washington and Florida. He holds a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Florida Atlantic University and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Florida International University. He is fluent in Spanish.

Brunch Menu:

Baked Quiche: Spinach & Bacon or Garden Vegetable or Ham & Broccoli
Cut Fruit
Assorted gluten-free Muffins
Banana Bread, mini Cinnamon Rolls, assorted Muffins
Orange Juice, Coffee and Tea

LWV-sponsored Election Events

September 26, 6:30 p.m.--Ballot Measures Explained, Capital Manor, 1955 Salem-Dallas Hwy.
League members are welcome to attend.
This forum will be recorded by CCTV and shown on CCTV and VOTE411.

October 24 at 6 p.m.--Public meeting on the Ballot Measures at Salem Library.   

October 3, 6 - 8 PM--Oregon Senate Candidates Round Table in the Anderson Room at Salem Library; co-sponsored with City Club.

Volunteer for Voter Service Activities

Kathleen West, Voter Education Co-chair

League members interested in helping with Voter activities during this election season are encouraged to attend our Voter Service meeting on

Wednesday, September 29, 10:30 a.m.
at the home of Kathleen West, 545 Waldo Ave. SE in Salem.

Among the Voter Service projects are:

Delivering printed Voters' Guides to libraries, etc.
Timer for candidate forms at CCTV.
Greeting, etc., at the October 3 Senate Candidates Round Table at Salem Library.
Speakers' Bureau to explain the five state ballot measures
Work on some projects can be done at home.

Please let me know you are coming or, if unable to attend, please let me know if you want to help.

Civil Discourse Essay Contest

Barbara Sellers-Young

The League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk Counties is sponsoring a contest for high school seniors in Marion and Polk Counties on the topic of Civil Discourse. Students are being invited to write a 1,000 to 1,500 word essay on the topic. Some of the potential questions the students can address are:

What is the historical position of civil discourse? What is the position of civil discourse in contemporary American culture? Has civil discourse changed significantly in recent history and if so how? What aspects of society strengthen civil discourse? Weaken civil discourse? What is the role of social media in civil discourse? What is the impact of the media (television, films, news sources)? How can a community support an ongoing civil dialogue? What is our individual responsibility in supporting civil discourse?

The project is receiving administrative support from the Salem-Keizer Education foundation and will be reviewed by six highly qualified individuals. The reviewers are:

Steve Chambers is a graduate of Willamette University. He taught at North High for 32 years, serving as department head for three years. In addition to the Masters in Teaching (MAT) course co-taught with Louise Brantley, he taught the introductory education class as an adjunct professor at Willamette and a course in international politics at Tokyo International University of America as an adjunct, both for three years. He has also served on the boards of the Salem Schools and the Salem/Keizer Education Foundation.

George Dyer started his teaching career in Salem at North High in social studies and ultimately became department chair. He also taught at McKay. He later was the principal at South High in Salem. He taught the Administration in Education course at Willamette for several years. He is also involved in the Salem City Club.

Louise Brantley was a student teacher at North High; following graduation from Willamette University she became a social studies teacher at Sprague High. She co-taught the Social Studies Methods class with Steve Chambers in the MAT program at Willamette University.

Jim Sellers is a retired journalist and state communications officer. For 14 years he was a Eugene Register-Guard editor, reporter and columnist, after which he joined Governor Victor Atiyeh's office as writer-researcher.

Roz Shirack has been a member of the League of Women Voters for 45 years and has served on local and state League boards. Roz is an economist, retired from the Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office.

Helen Caswell is an alumnus of San Francisco State and the University of California Berkeley. She has for the last six years been a feature writer for Salem Weekly where she has covered local politics, arts and the environment. She is also an accomplished photographer of a wide range of subjects.

Our sincere thanks to them for their willingness to contribute their time. Winners will be selected in January/February. Please share the flier (below) with any senior high school student in Marion and Polk Counties.

LWV High School CIVIL DISCOURSE Essay Contest

Salem Housing Authority Overview

Patty Davenport and Jean Massie, May 2018

Salem Housing Authority's (SHA) mission is to assist low and moderate income families to achieve self sufficiency through stable housing. They work to provide stable housing through rent subsidies and community investments. SHA achieves these goals through programs such as: Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing and Affordable Housing Programs, and various smaller programs. (Ref.1)

Established 1969, SHA serves about nine thousand people within the Salem Urban Growth Boundary. Their client base is anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 on any given day. SHA also works closely with other community services to provide wrap-around support. "Due to being fully leased with funding received from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), SHA will be closing the Section 8 waiting list effective July 1, 2018. Currently, there are over 5,000 families on the Section 8 waiting list and it is unknown at this time when [they] will be pulling from that list. The waiting list for Public Housing is currently 1½ to 3 years." (Ref. 1, 2, 4)

The fair market rate for Salem's rental properties in the private sector has increased 10% in the last four years. Salem's rental property has just above a 2% vacancy rate. The lack of available and affordable housing pushes low and very low income people out of the rental housing market and increases homelessness. Even with Section 8 Vouchers, SHA estimates some 250 of those vouchers cannot be used due to decreased rental housing availability and increased rents. (Ref. 2, 4)

Approximately ninety percent of SHA funding is from HUD. This is primarily for Section 8 Vouchers with ten percent from local funding such as affordable housing income. (Ref. 2)

PROGRAMS MANAGED BY SALEM HOUSING AUTHORITY

Section 8 Housing Vouchers

SHA oversee the local dispersement of federal housing funds through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, elderly people and persons needing special accommodations to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private rental market. (Ref. 1, 5)

There are several types of vouchers in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The most common are Tenant-based and Unit based.

Tenant-based Vouchers stay with the tenant and are portable, whether within the city, state or country as long as the rental unit and tenant continue to meet program requirements. Tenant-based vouchers are given to clients to aid in finding housing in the private marketplace, which includes single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. They can also be used in Public Housing and Affordable Housing.

When the family finds a suitable housing unit and funding is available, SHA will enter into a contract with the property-owner and the family will enter into a lease with the property-owner. Each party makes its respective payments to the property-owner so that the owner receives full rent. Clients must pass a criminal background check and at least one family member must be a US citizen. They must also meet income guidelines. (Ref.1, 2, 4)
Unit-based Vouchers stay with the rental property. The tenant may move but the voucher is attached to the property. (Ref. 4)

Large Properties Management Salem Housing Authority (SHA) is responsible for management of six housing developments and 87 scattered sites throughout the Salem Keizer area. They enforce lease agreements, set fees and charges, and work to maintain decent, safe and sanitary living conditions for their clients.

Public Housing

There are 245 public housing units that are for limited to low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. SHA determines client eligibility based on:
1)  Annual gross income; below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
2)  Whether they qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family.
3)  Have U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.
4)  When eligible for the voucher program SHA will check client references and make 
background checks. 

Most units are 3-, 4-, & 5-bedroom townhouses; there is a limited number of 2-bedroom units. Rent is calculated at 30% of the household's income. (Ref. 1, 3:Dec 22, 2017, 5)

Affordable Housing

SHA has 392 Affordable Housing Units (non-federal) for low-income households--below 60% AMI. These properties are for families that meet specific income requirements. (Ref. 4)

VARIOUS SMALLER PROGRAMS

Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS)

The purpose of the FSS Program is to enable families on Section 8 and Public Housing programs to achieve economic independence and self sufficiency through education and the improvement of employable skills. The client meets with an FSS Coordinator who works with the client to set the goals to accomplish over the five-year program. Once a client begins to increase their income, their rent will also increase. The increased rent is put into an FSS Escrow Account; upon completion of the program the client may use the Escrow Account to purchase a stated goal such as a car or down payment on a house.

The FSS Coordinators work with community professionals in the areas of social services, employment, education, and healthcare. The coordinator and client set up an Individual Training Service Plan (ITSP), which is a very specific, detailed goal plan for the individual joining the program. These goals focus on education, employment, personal, financial, & legal goals. It is the job of the coordinator and client to make sure the goals are met by the end of the contract in order to successfully graduate.

Selection for participation in the program will not depend upon the level of education, job history, job performance or credit history of the applicant. Clients with disabilities may participate in the program and may graduate, even if they are unable to work. The head of the household shall be required to seek and maintain employment. All FSS participants must have valid social security numbers. A client who participates in FSS, but fails to complete their contract may participate again in the program. (Ref. 1)

Family Unification

"SHA entered into an agreement with the Department of Human Services (DHS) after receiving 100 Family Unification Vouchers from [HUD]. This program serves three types of families experiencing barriers to finding stable housing: 1) parents reuniting with children returning from foster care; 2) parents that need to provide a stable living environment to avoid having their children removed from their home; and 3) youth 18 to 21 years of age who have recently left the foster system and need to return to their parent's home. Ninety-two households are currently served with Family Unification Vouchers." (Ref. 3:Dec 22, 2017)

Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP)

The Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP) launched in July 2017 is Salem's Housing First Initiative to permanently house 100 of the most vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals in the City of Salem. This Program is funded by the City of Salem and administered and operated by SHA in collaboration with the ARCHES Program. The program assists with rental housing payments and works with landlords to remove barriers for renting to homeless clients, such as poor rental history. They facilitate access to critical support services such as health care, mental health care providers and other social service providers.

Referrals to the program are from ARCHES who first evaluate clients for their vulnerability index and individual needs prior to entry into the program. Intensive case management is provided by HRAP staff. The HRAP staff works continuously to maintain and strengthen ties with the landlords. With barrier removal funds, wraparound supportive services and an Individualized Housing Stability Plan, rental openings have increased to clients. SHA has committed 100 Housing Choice Vouchers to graduates of the HRAP program to ensure their long-term housing stability. (Ref.1 and 3: Nov. 21, 2017)

Veterans' Rental Assistance Program (VRAP)

The goal of VRAP is to permanently house at least 42 homeless veterans annually as well as to provide the wrap-around support necessary for achieving long-term housing stability. VRAP is funded by a grant from the Oregon Health Authority, is operated by ARCHES and overseen by SHA. ARCHES provides rental assistance housing through barrier removal funding and intensive case management to homeless veterans. (Ref. 1 and 3:Dec. 22, 2017)

Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing Programs (VASH)

"SHA administers two VASH programs with 68 total vouchers in partnership with the Veterans Administration. The Veterans Administration screens and refers eligible veterans to SHA. The VASH tenant-based program provides vouchers to at-risk homeless veterans. VASH vouchers can be used at several SHA owned properties as well as privately owned properties." (Ref. 3:Dec. 22, 2017)

Emergency Housing Network (EHN)

The Emergency Housing Network meets once a month to bring various governmental agencies, non- profits, and other concerned stakeholders together to network on ways to better serve their clients. They are advocates serving the homeless and at-risk populations of the greater Salem area. The Salem Housing Authority runs each EHN meeting and publishes a monthly newsletter of agency events and updates. (Ref.1)

References:

1. Salem Housing Authority Website

2. Interview with Andy Wilch January 3, 2018
3. SHA Program Management Report: (Dec 22, 2017) and (Nov 21, 2017)
4. E-mail from SHA staff
5. HUD website

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.