LWVLA sent five delegates to the 2017 Convention of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, held June 2-4 at the Inn at Pocono Manor: Marilyn Brill (Membership), Mary Beth Clark (Civics Education, Mauch Project), Sharlie Schmidli (Mauch Project), Susan Warner-Mills (1st VP), and Mary Zimmerman (incoming President).
Between us we attended several workshops:
- Protecting Our Water: Watershed Issues in PA- The Delaware River is designated a wild and scenic river. There is great concern over preserving the purity of the Delaware which has no dams, and therefore, has been able to maintain both eels and mussels which are key to pure water. The Susquehanna was cited frequently as the poster child for everything which can go wrong with a river when you have dams and coal mining. The Delaware was in the forefront of creating the RiverKeeper system, and has a very active, and well funded, River Keeper.
- Know Your League: League 101-
This workshop used the Power Point presentation on which our League has based several of its own presentations. So, while it was interesting and informative, our attendees found its content to be somewhat redundant. The main convener, former LWVPA President Olivia Thorne, has asked us to share our revisions with her!
- Hear Yourself Think: The Role of Propaganda and Media in Public Discourse-
Attendees at this workshop reported that while its content was informative and engaging, the examples used to illustrate its recommendations were all taken from the recent presidential campaign of a single party/candidate. As a result, it came across as extremely partisan, a fact which unfortunately overshadowed its message.
- Growing Your Local League: Strategies to Increase Membership and Engagement-
Our own Marilyn Brill was a featured panelist for this workshop. She and her fellow panelists (Eileen Olmsted, Greater Pittsburgh and Carol Layton, Berks County) presented a variety of interesting and useful strategies for growing and also for rejuvenating local League membership. Most of the recommendations made by the panelists were captured in the handout that Marilyn provided. LWVLA members reading this report will recognize and appreciate the value of the strategies listed!
- Charter School Reform-
Those who attended this workshop came away informed and impressed. The main focus was on the burden to school districts created by charter schools (for example, the school districts are required to provide busing for all students within a ten mile range who are attending charter schools) and on the tendency of charter schools to reject or remove the students who require more specialized education.
Electoral College/Alternative Election Systems-
This session was divided into two parts both presented by Dr. Jack Nagel who is a professor emeritus in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Nagel is a proponent of the ranked voting alterntive election system and presented a case arguing that such a system for representatives created a more equitable picture of the wishes of the voters. Dr. Nagel is also a supporter of the National Popular Vote, a strategy to eliminate the role of the Electoral College without actually amending the U.S.
This workshop was presented by Carol Kuniholm, LWVPA's Fair District's chair. Both the presenter and the presentation were outstanding. Instead of focusing on the now familiar map of the Pennsylvania Congressional Districts, Ms. Kuniholm placed the emphasis on the state legislative districts. She had fascinating maps showing how various representatives have been redistricted out of existence, and how the state, as opposed to congressional districts, are also gerrymandered. She feels that this is the best chance in memory to obtain meaningful reform because the election cycle strongly coincides with the redistricting effort so legislators can be forced to run on their stand on redistricting.
LWVPA business was transacted during the plenary sessions. Duly moved and passed were the 2017-19 state program (including the first portion of the Election Law Update Study results, the LWVPA-no PMP increase (Per Member Payment, is the portion of each League member's annual dues that is shared with the state and national League organizations to support their activities, services, and brand), LWVPA/CEF budgets, and the nominated slate of officers and board directors. At the outset of the convention, several board slots were open; however, by the end of convention:
- Incoming Secretary (Victoria Williams) had agreed to become the Secretary/Treasurer
- Board Director of Election Reform and Social Media (Carol Kuniholm) had agreed to step into the position of Vice President for Government and Social Policy
- Jill Greene stepped into Carol's original slot
That left two slots vacant, namely, the Vice President in charge of Voter Service (last year's director will perform those duties in the next biennium as an off-board specialist) and the board director for Development/Financial Planning, a role that President Susan Carty hopes will be filled by a professional fundraiser.
Finally, two action motions were passed:
- One action motion directed and authorized the LWVPA board and staff to share/distribute advocacy information related to the workshop on "Sleep and the Adolescent Brain" for local Leagues and their members to use when lobbying for education reform related to school hours.
- A second action motion directed the state board and staff to support legislation and other measures in keeping with our position on gambling.
LWVLA delegates to convention agreed that the parliamentary process in several of the plenary sessions was flawed and that, except for the individual workshops, many of which were quite high quality, the overall convention lacked focus and effective organization. However, overall, we felt it was a useful and informative experience that helped us all understand the vital role that local League members play in the larger organization. We are grateful to our League for providing the opportunity and resources for us to attend!