Making Democracy Work

Focus newsletter for March 2019

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

President's Column

Diana BodtkerDiana Bodtker

A number of things stand out for me from this last month. First was discussing the book Nomadland by Jessica Bruder at the LWV book club. The book details the lives of seniors that have taken up a nomadic life in RVs, trailers, campers and even cars following seasonal jobs. They do not consider themselves homeless. They say they are merely houseless. They have found themselves unable to afford more standard housing because of rising rents, changes in finances or family situations. They may find work filling Christmas orders for Amazon, harvesting sugar beets in North Dakota or serving as camp hosts in parks. This work force is largely invisible to us and they try very hard to remain that way. They are always on the lookout for places they can park for free without being hassled by park rangers or police.

They are a resilient band helping each other with information about work and how to get by frugally. They are a product of the Great Recession and bring to mind the diaspora resulting from the Dust Bowl. As our League continues to look into the local homeless situation, this book describes a group that has managed through courage and resourcefulness to avoid that situation. I recommend you find the book at your local library. Also, the book club membership is limited by the space in participants' homes, but we could start a second one, which I strongly recommend. I have read and discussed important books I would not have done on my own. If you need some help in setting up a book- discussion group, contact Roz Shirack or myself and we can give you some tips.

The second event that was significant for me was the "Red for Ed March" at the capitol on Presidents' Day. There were 4500 teachers, students and their supporters marching, chanting, listening to speakers and visiting their legislators' offices. What impressed me most was the number of students who were there to make their voices heard for their issues + smaller class sizes, more classes in music and art, affordable college tuition.

The third event of special importance for me was the Hot Topics program at the West Salem library. The presenter was Beth Hays from Community Resource Trust. She talked about the housing crisis in our area and the personal barriers to finding permanent housing. These included high rents, low vacancy rates, strong competition for those units that are available, having below family wage jobs, unemployment, failing family structures, drug or alcohol addiction, and mental health issues. She talked about the complex financial planning that was required for construction of the Cornerstone Apartments out on Portland Road. The waiting list for these new affordable units is long but there are more apartment houses being built on the site. This complex will provide services for the residents such as playgrounds, personal finance and parenting classes and on-site social workers.

There is a lot going on in our two counties, and the League is a great way to be informed and involved. Ours is a strictly volunteer organization, and we need new members and new volunteers with fresh ideas to keep us strong and vital. If you can help with a project, please let a member of the board know. If you get a call to consider a committee chairmanship or board position or to be a greeter for a forum or co-leader of a unit meeting or a planner for a social event or our 100th anniversary, please consider the request seriously. Each of us is part of the necessary glue that holds the League together and makes us strong and relevant.

Tour the Day Center at the ARCHES Project

Jean Sherbeck, Chair of LWVMPC interest group on Homelessness Tent  

We have been invited to tour the ARCHES Day Center, a service for homeless people in Salem and surrounding areas on Wednesday, March 13, at 4:00 PM.  We will learn about the services that are currently provided and plans for the future.  The center is a program of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.

ARCHES has several housing programs that are described on its website. One program provides case management, housing placement assistance, and short-to-medium-term rental assistance for households experiencing barriers to accessing and maintaining stable housing. Another provides on-going rental assistance and case management for individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those at risk of becoming homeless. The rental programs include people who are actively receiving supervision through Marion County Parole & Probation as well as those who are encountering barriers to accessing housing due to poor rental histories, poor credit, or criminal histories. Workshops teach them the skills necessary to be successful tenants.

Another program provides supportive services for low or very low-income veteran households who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. The Housing Assistance Program provides case management and financial assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

The Drop-In Day Center, open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., offers homeless people sack lunches, hygiene supplies, telephone access, a mailing address, and information about community resources.

Community Events

Speech Trek 2019
AAUW is holding a public speaking competition forGirl at microphone 10th and 11th grade girls on Saturday, March 16, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Chemeketa Community College in Building 2 (across from the Blue parking lot, no permit needed). The contest theme is Positive Change for Women. Students will present a 5-6 minute persuasive speech focusing on one of the following topics:
1. Pay Equity - Why does pay equity matter?
2. Who is the most influential woman leader since 1900?
3. How have women been portrayed in media in the past and how should that change?
The top three winners will receive cash awards.
League members and the public are invited to come to hear the speeches and encourage the young women.
Refreshments will be available.

Documentary film: The Devil We Know. The Chemistry of a Cover-Up Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m., Salem's Grand Theatre, 191 High Street NE

The Devil We Know is a story of how one synthetic chemical, used to make Teflon products, contaminated a West Virginia community. But new research hints at a much broader problem: nearly all Americans are affected by exposure to non-stick chemicals in food, drinking water, and consumer products. With very little oversight on the chemical industry in this country, we invite you to learn more about the problem and how you can protect yourself and your family. The documentary will be followed by guest speakers and an audience discussion.

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.