Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for December 2017

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

President's Column

Cindy Burgess Cindy Burgess

Dear Members & Friends,

November, the month of Thanksgiving.  The pastor at my church separated the word into Thanks and Giving.  I am thankful for all of you who give your time and your funds to the work of the League.  I am thankful for the wonderful Marion & Polk Counties LWV Board who all do their part and give so much even in the face of some challenging realities, personal and otherwise.  I'm thankful for the passionate LWVOR environmental action committee.  I'm thankful for the LWVUS fighting for voting rights and equal rights.  These things are giving in an essential way.

November started out with a tour of the Center for Hope and Safety and a wonderfully informative talk by Executive Director Jayne Downing, this year's Oregon Peacemaker Award recipient. Read highlights of her talk

Continuing with our Homelessness theme, our November 21 Hot Topics at West Salem Library meeting was How the Salem-Keizer School District Helps Homeless Youth with speaker Julie Johnson, S-K Homeless Liaison.  Read highlights of her talk

The national League has taken recent action on a couple of issues: Campaign funding and Anti-discrimination.

● LWVUS representatives attended a press conference at the Hart Senate Office Building, calling on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to act on the secret funding of online campaign ads. LWV and other organizations joined to deliver 100,000 signatures to the FEC.
● The LWVUS joined the National Women's Law Center and other organizations by signing an amicus brief in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a bakery in Colorado which refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple citing religious objections. The brief that the League joined argues that allowing the bakery to refuse service violates public accommodations laws and opens the door to discrimination of other groups. Arguments in the case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 5, 2017.

Looking forward, December promises to be a bit less busy month in our local League--except for those who are hosting or attending Book Club, Great Decisions, the new Homelessness Interest Group, our Holiday Party, and planning a voter education event regarding Ballot Measure 101 for early in January!

Ballot Measure 101 asks voters whether the funding for the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) in the law passed by the 2016 Legislature should be allowed to go into effect. An explanation of the measure will be on the LWVOR's online Voters' Guide to the January 23rd Special Election at VOTE411. (The online Voters' Guide will be in a format that allows it to be printed.)

Several of our local League members have assisted the LWVOR with editing the Voters Guide explanation of Ballot Measure 101.  The Editing Committee is composed of Deanie Anderson, Diana Bodtker, Bea Epperson, Sally Hollemon and Jane Berry-Eddings.  Thank you for giving of your time and talents.

Salem Speaks Up!

Advocacy: Take Action on Air Quality

Since 1968, LWVOR has been a voice on behalf of air quality "...in support of
Adequate standards for control of all sources of pollution and strict enforcement of established rules and regulations;
A comprehensive, coordinated program for management of air as a natural resource;
Adequate financing for air pollution abatement programs...". 

An email from Peggy Lynch of the LWVOR Action Committee was sent to all League members on November 20. That email begins: The Environmental Quality Commission is considering new draft regulations to address Oregon's air quality. You can find complete materials at cleanerair.oregon.gov, including an updated rule guide to help explain each section of the proposal and draft tables for how the rules would be implemented among businesses. 

Action Needed:  People can testify either in writing or orally at one of the public hearings scheduled around the state. Two paragraphs, one about your story of how dirty air affects you and your family and a paragraph supporting strong air health and science based regulations would help get us cleaner air. If you feel comfortable, you can comment about specific sections of the draft rules and tables. But a voice for urgent implementation is needed.

After studying the information, you can testify by e-mail from the cleanerair.oregon.gov webpage until December 22 or in person on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, 9 a.m. - 11 a.m., at the Department of State Lands Building, 775 Summer Street, NE, Suite 100, in Salem. 

Please respond as an individual. Your voice is needed.

LWV Supports Legislation to Strengthen Reporting to National Background Check Database

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the Fix NICS Act, legislation that will improve and enforce reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The LWVUS supports this legislation because it will make it easier to legally prevent individuals from buying a firearm if they have previous felonies, indictments and other crimes which include domestic assaults.

Highlights of Tour to Center for Hope and Safety

Notes by Cindy Burgess

The League partnered with a Huddle group to tour the Center for Hope and Safety facility on November 5. The new building is beautifully decorated and designed to give people private places to tell their story with a charming separate place for children to play, along with plenty of space for meetings and workers.  There are also storage rooms for all the many supplies that families escaping violent homes will need.  The center has grown from humble beginnings into a world-wide inspiration that provides its ideas to other groups without charge or copyright. 

Jayne DowningJayne Downing, Executive Director, (pictured at left) informed us of the new thinking about domestic violence.  The old cycle of rising tension, anger, violence, apologies and promises, and then the "honeymoon" phase is no longer thought to be valid.  Tests of the abusers' autonomic nervous systems have been done that show they actually have low perspiration, respiration and heart rate, rather than increased as one would expect in an angry person.  They are very much in control of themselves.  People who are angry don't do the planning and fantasizing about future violence that abusers do. Angry people don't control where their punches land.  

Abusers start out very charming and complimentary toward their victim, buying them gifts. They seem the perfect partner.  Then, they begin isolating the victim from friends and family, even going so far as to move far away or continually moving to a different place.  After a time, they begin blaming the victim for things not being just right, calling the victim names, telling them no one will ever love them.  The abuser is not more jealous than other people, but will use a jealousy act to control.  They will accuse the victim of having an affair, which they cannot prove they are not having. The abuser is often having an affair and doing the same thing to the other person. The abuser goes from pushing, shoving, hair-pulling, to punching in places that will not show. They can stop the violence the second there is a phone call or a knock on the door.  So they are not out of control, angry people.  They believe they are entitled to tell the victim what to do.

The abuser will use threats of getting the children or the home, which are two instances when court intervention can be useful.  Restraining orders must be used only if the victim thinks they will work and there is a safety plan.

In the 25 years that Jayne has been at the Center,  the number of contacts per year has increased from about 7000 to 22,000 last year. That number represents 5000 - 7000 victims, as individuals may call more than once.  The increase is, in part, due to a rise in awareness of domestic violence and awareness that one can ask for help.  

The center owns 20 shelter beds and sometimes goes over capacity.  People are having to stay longer because of the lack of housing in the Salem area.  The center has a few motel vouchers, and the advocates try to contact family members who may take the victims in, given a proper safety plan.

Part of the reason for League involvement in this tour is 16% of homeless persons are victims of domestic violence. [1] Approximately 50% of all women who are homeless report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. [2] 63% of homeless women have been victims of intimate partner violence as adults. [3]

A dream that Jayne Downing and the Center for Hope & Safety has is to build a three-story building next door to their office.  They have purchased the old Greyhound Bus Station and will tear it down.  An architect is volunteering his services and the Center is hoping for donations.  The idea includes having businesses on the first floor which will employ the survivors and/or train them.  The second and third floors will have transitional housing apartments available at reduced rents so the residents can go to school or work.

This was a very enlightening Sunday afternoon in a very pleasant atmosphere with the enthusiastic Jayne Downing and Huddle's delicious treats of cheese, crackers, fruit and drinks.  I wish more of you could have had the pleasure.

Sources: 1 The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2013 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness, A 25-City Survey (2013).  2 "Pressing Issues Facing Families Who Are Homeless." The National Center on Family Homelessness. (2013).  3 Browne, A. 1998. "Responding to the Needs of Low Income and Homeless Women Who are Survivors of Family Violence." Journal of American Medical Women's Association. 53(2): 57-64.

Highlights of Hot Topics on How the S-K School District Helps Homeless Students

Barbara Sellers-Young

The League of Women Voters of Marion and Polk counties has this year designated the homeless as an area of public concern. For this reason, they invited Julie Johnson of the Salem/Kaiser School District Homeless Liaison STEP program to share background information on education and homeless youth as an initial step to determining what might be the steps necessary to undertake a study on homelessness in Marion and Polk Counties.

Johnson's presentation was a follow-up to Jimmy Jones of ARCHES Housing program lecture at the annual luncheon meeting in October.

Julie Johnson (pictured at right) is in charge of the ten-year-old STEP program Julie Johnson(Students in Transition Education Program) for homeless students. The STEP program provides a variety of resources for children who are either unaccompanied youth who have no family or who are from families faced with housing issues associated with job loss, domestic violence or natural disasters such as fires. The support may include transportation, school supplies, access to academic support including sports and other educational fees, food vouchers, clothing and hygiene products, bus passes and laundry vouchers. The Bell School Program of the Assistance League also works with the STEP program to provide the basics of daily life.

In her federally mandated position, Johnson coordinates much of her work with the students through school counselors who identify the 1 in every 40 students who qualify for assistance (1,232 in the S/K district for the academic year 2016/17). According to Johnson, these students are not located in one school but are `pretty much distributed' throughout the school districts.

In general, the STEP program tries to have the young people feel a sense of community through staying within the same school and school district and provides transportation to make that possible. Johnson gave as an example a youngster from south Salem who is sheltering in Keizer. That child is transported from the shelter to his school.

The STEP program works with Service Integration Teams within a school's catchment area that includes such specific programs as ASPIRE, a mentoring program that matches trained and supportive adult volunteer mentors with middle and high school students to develop a plan to help them meet their education goals beyond high school, and AVID that helps students prepare for the professional world with training in résumés, scholarship letters, interview skills, etc. The ultimate goal of the program is to graduate students who have the job skills to go into the work force or have the necessary background for college.

Johnson noted that currently there is a Task Force of Salem and Marion County to develop a Youth Shelter that is modeled on the Corvallis Youth Shelter for children under the age of 18. This would be specifically for those children who are unaccompanied minors. It would provide a consistent safe living environment and integrate with the existing programs such as STEP.

If you want to aid homeless children: Julie Johnson suggested gift cards from stores such as Fred Meyer or Walmart for no more than $50. Gift cards can be given to students or their parents to buy clothing, hygiene items or food.

Mail your gift card(s) to: Julie Johnson, S.T.E.P., P.O. Box 12024, Salem, OR 97309

LWV Positions on Homelessness

The League has two positions on Homelessness:
Homeless Youth--LWVOR position
Criteria for Housing Supply--LWVUS position

Both positions in full can be found online in the LWVOR Issues for Action. Read positions

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.