Pre-registering Students at Los Altos High School

On September 17th,  Constitution Day, members of our Voter Services team went into classrooms at Los Altos High School helping to pre-register students to vote.  The 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution was a good day to discuss with students the importance of voting and how every vote matters.

We went into 19 US History and US History AP classes and talked to 516 students about how a citizen’s vote is their voice in government and voting helps elect representatives who will work on the issues you care about. Volunteers helped students complete voter registration forms and we left with 246 completed forms and delivered them to the Registrar of Voters in San Jose.* * Students who completed the forms will be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18 and will receive a ballot in the mail for the next election. Teachers complemented our presentation, which included the history of the right to vote, evaluating ballot information, and the importance of civic engagement. 

The traditionally low youth voter turnout was demonstrated by having 20% of the class stand up, representing the 1 in 5 youth voters who voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Youth voter turnout increased almost 50%  with the student led Never Again MSD movement after the Parkland shooting which motivated young people to register and vote. LWV members engaged the students by sharing personal stories about growing up in a society with no representative government, choosing a political party preference for a first election, and the importance of choosing school boards. 

Constitution Day was a great success for our Voter Services team and the culmination of a year’s long effort that started with Claire Noonan and Claudia Hevel reaching out to the MVLA Superintendent about going into the classrooms to pre-register students and later collaborating with the teachers of the LAHS  History Department to make it happen.  The process has given us new ideas to take into the classroom next year.  We appreciate the support and collaboration with the MVLA School District and LAHS administrators and staff.  

** Some students took forms home to fill in missing information and others had already pre-registered, were too young (under 16) to pre-register, were not citizens, or chose not to participate.

Voter Service Highlights

In addition to pre-registering students at Los Altos High School, the Voter Services’ team has been very busy the last few months.  

New Citizen’s Ceremony: Seven League volunteers helped to register  522 voters from over 60 countries at the July 25th New Citizen Ceremony in Campbell where we also we also talked  to everyone about the upcoming Census and the Voter’s Choice Act changes to election procedures in Santa Clara County.

National Voter Registration Day: Seven LAMV League volunteers had tables at Mountain View, Los Altos and Woodland libraries on National Voter Registration Day, September 24. While most people were either already registered or non-citizens, we had something useful to say to all 89 people we talked to during our 3 hours at the libraries. In Mountain View, none of the non-citizens were aware they should fill out the census too.  They appreciated hearing that they can contribute to their communities by participating in the census. 

LWV Supports Foothill College’s Political Awareness Day: On October 9th, LWV LAMV members partnered with Foothill College’s ASFC Student Government Leaders to hold an information session and rally to register students to vote and plan to participate in the 2020 Census.   Students dropped by our table to ask questions, register and get a ticket for the free Taco Bar.  We collected over a dozen completed registration forms and several forms went with students to be completed later. 

Foothill’s President Thuy Nguyen visited our League tables and thanked us for supporting Foothill College’s students.  Daphne Small, Foothill’s Director of Student Activities has asked if the League will support more student focused events in the January-February timeframe.     

Update from Our Housing Committee

Our Housing Committee advocates for increasing the supply of affordable housing in Los Altos and Mountain View area. The team monitors new condo and apartment developments as well as the rent stabilization program in Mountain View. Read copies of their Action Letters. They also keep track of state legislation that will impact local housing regulations, such as, the 25 new housing bills recently signed by Governor Newsom, some described below.

Local News

Mountain View

Oversized Vehicle Ban and Safe Parking: We have written/spoken against the oversized vehicle ban because it includes so many of the city’s streets and is not tied to finding safe parking for these vehicles.  Additions to safe parking spots are moving very slowly.  We will continue to monitor these issues.  Action Letter re: oversized vehicles & Action Letter re: Safe Parking .

To learn more about this issue: MV City Living in Vehicles and Homeless Information

CSFRA (Rent Stabilization):  We also are monitoring the discussion about amendments to CSFRA (Rent Stabilization), as our LWV studied and then took a position supporting this charter amendment.  The Council and the Rental Housing Committee are continuing to discuss what issues might be included in a ballot referendum, presently targeted for the March primary election.  One of the major concerns we have is the possibility of changing the annual rate of increase in rent to a flat number such as 5%, or even higher, rather than tying it to the CPI, which we believe is fairer to all.  We are also looking for ways to mitigate displacement, which is becoming a major issue. This is mainly because there are so many rental units built over 50 years ago that may need major rehab and/or can be scraped and built at higher density and/or more profitably as market-rate condos, townhomes, or rowhomes. Action Letter re: CSFRA.

Los Altos

In Los Altos, we continue to advocate for denser housing along El Camino and inclusion of the maximum possible number of below-market-rate units.  Oct. 22nd the Council will hold a hearing on 5150 El Camino Real, a 196-unit condo and townhome development that includes 28 BMRs (19% of the total units). Action Letter re: 5150 El Camino Real.

New Housing Bills Signed by the Governor

In addition to what’s happening locally, 25 new State laws affecting affordable housing were signed by the Governor, including:

AB 1482 caps rent increases and requires just cause for eviction.  This law will not replace CSFRA in Mtn. View, but it expands rent control to post 1995 rentals that have been built prior to the last 15 years.  The 15-year exemption is to allow developers that time period to ensure that they make the profits they anticipated when they initiated their developments.  Due to this exemption, plus the fact that with vacancy decontrol (meaning when there is tenant turnover the landlord can charge market rent), developers will not be discouraged from building, according to our research. This law will also apply to condos and single-family homes owned by corporations, not individuals.  The rent caps are 5% plus inflation (CPI), so not nearly as stringent as the CPI cap in Mtn. View for the pre-1995 rentals covered by CSFRA.  Los Altos and Los Altos Hills do not have any rent stabilization, so all rentals in these communities will be covered by AB 1482. Equally important, AB 1482 requires “just cause” for eviction, so that landlords cannot evict tenants without a valid reason, then raising the rent to market rent for new tenants. (LWVC supported this bill.)

SB 330 – The Housing Crisis Act of 2019. For 5 years this will prohibit downzonings, housing moratoria, and caps on building permits. It prohibits cities from changing fees or other requirements after preliminary applications have been submitted and streamlines the permitting and approval process. It contains anti-displacement measures and many other measures designed to accelerate housing production but protect tenants at the same time. This bill is perhaps the most controversial bill signed into law from the cities’ perspective.

AB 68, SB 13, AB 881 all relate to encouraging more accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Impact fees are reduced, owner-occupancy requirements are limited, permitting is streamlined, parking requirements are reduced amongst other loosening of the requirements for ADUs. (LWVC supported AB 68 and SB 13).

AB 1763 gives 100% affordable housing developments a higher density bonus and reduced parking.

AB 1486 strengthens the Surplus Land Act and SB 6 creates centralized database of surplus and vacant land. Surplus land is to be made available for affordable housing; these bills will make it easier to identify.

AB 1487 establishes the San Francisco Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which will be able to place affordable housing revenue ballot measure before the Bay Area voters. This was an outgrowth of the CASA Compact and many local cities oppose this (especially the smaller ones.)

SB 329 prohibits discrimination because a tenant is using a housing voucher, such as Section 8, or any other government subsidy. (LWVC supported this bill.)

To look up state bills:  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml 

A House Divided – From Polarization to Collaboration – Bringing Back Effective Government Workshop Report

Sponsored by the Santa Clara County Council Leagues of Women Voters and the Santa Clara County Council of the American Association of University Women, the workshop, held on September 21, 2019 at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, hosted 53 participants eager to use their civil discourse skills.

The background for this event focused on the situation that our country is having trouble making important decisions and solving problems in the United States. 

The workshop introduced a concept of the country starting out with diverse and competitive biases from their original countries and settled areas. 

 We progressed to discuss views about ways to bridge the divide based on

• Reducing dangerous, toxic talk

• Making and following fairer rules for politics

• Taking control and making decisions closer to home

Our conversation covered options, trade-offs, and agreements.

Participants completed a feedback form that included results covering:

  • 36 of 41 respondents felt the workshop was a valuable use of their time
  • Actions citizens could take to address this problem: increase participation in public and neighborhood meetings; get involved; hold local events to learn civil discourse; show support for transparency, participation & better outcomes; raise awareness; more civil discourse at city council meetings; grass roots community volunteering; be the change.
  • Future workshop topics: use of military funds; monetary reform in politics; global economy & outsourcing impact on Americans; local housing & transportation; climate change.

Interested in practicing how to converse with “the other side”? 

Join us Sunday, Oct. 20, 2-4pm in Cupertino to practice civil discourse and plan our 2020 program. Contact [email protected] to reserve a spot. 

Together we can revive civility. Our democracy depends on it.

Delegates Return from Convention

California Convention 2019
2019 California Convention

Karin Bricker

This was my first state convention and I enjoyed the chance to talk to people from other area leagues and to listen to speakers share the importance of increasing the diversity of our organizations and our democracy — to involve younger people of all races and ethnicities. Evidently this convention was already much more inclusive than the one in 2017. My favorite parts were the best practices sessions, sharing inspiring and practical ideas. One was on voter’s services projects and the other on advocacy and education activities. People applied to present and 5 projects were chosen for each session. All demonstrated effective collaboration with community partners.

________________________________________________

Lisa McLain

The state convention was a wonderful opportunity to learn what other leagues are doing and talk with members from throughout California, some who who have been members for decades and others who have joined recently.

In addition to voting on budgets, officers and  priorities for the next two years, we had the opportunity to attend a wide variety of caucuses and workshops. There was a very interesting workshop about how our implicit cultural biases impact us and limit our outreach to more diverse communities. I learned more about the Voter’s Choice Act, the upcoming Census and how to craft a better presentation. It was a very full weekend. 

I left the state convention with some good ideas, appreciative of our League’s work and thankful to live in voter friendly California.

Crownie Billik

I particularly enjoyed the plenary session. The session for me, was an adventure in democracy, as over 200 delegates , representing  53 local leagues, delegates voted/resolved the business, voted in new state positions, and set State priorities for action. 

I also very much enjoyed, meeting with a cross section of delegates at the Candidate Forum workshop, where we shared/discussed/role played practical ideas, to avoid confusion and promote civility at local league Candidate Forums. 

________________________________________________

Karin Fitzerald

As a new member to LWVLAMV I jumped at the chance to go to convention.  I have so much to learn.  Diversity inclusion caught my eye immediately because groups that are diverse are stronger. I got to attend a full day workshop on racial equity as well as shorter classes on transgender and prior incarcerated community issues.  I was comfortable enough to ask all the questions that pop up with these issues as well as made uncomfortable so that I could explore why I felt that way.  I learned to “understand before trying to be understood” and to push my boundaries.  One speaker talked about how each political party always tries to get out ‘their’ voters but more advantageous is to get disenfranchised communities involved in voting.  Expand the voting base.  Suffrage.  I hope to work in areas I am not comfortable to reach new voters and help disenfranchised communities with voting rights, changes and education as well as info about the census.  I also enjoyed finding out what other leagues were doing and all the aid that is available to us from their work.

________________________________________________

Ellen Wheeler

Delegates approved the following motion regarding charter schools at their 2019 convention in Pasadena. 

APPROVED: “Update Pre-K Education position to include charter schools’ accountability” 

Next steps: The approved motion will be taken up by the LWVC board, perhaps at their July board meeting. That board will begin their discussion of the process for how to utilize this motion. What was described to delegates on the floor is that the board will solicit local Leagues for their input. The state board will create explicit positions regarding this accountability provision regarding charter schools. (It was noted that the current Pre-K Education position for traditional public schools includes “accountability.”) The board may utilize the local study of LWV Fresno to inform their work. As is normal, these new positions will be voted on and approved by the LWVC board at an upcoming board meeting and will be activated at that time. Note that the standard LWVC norm is for all positions to be voted on at future LWVC conventions in their standard “re-affirmation of positions” segment during a plenary segment.

Ellen Wheeler is the education chairperson of LWV Santa Clara County. This charter school motion work will be discussed at future education committee meetings. Contact Ellen if you’d like to be added to this committee list. ([email protected])

I Voted

Voters Choice Act

In 2016 the California Legislature passed the Voters Choice Act (VCA) to increase flexibility and convenience for voters. Five counties piloted it for the 2016 Presidential election.  Santa Clara County and others will implement it for the 2020 elections.

Under the VCA every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail starting 29 days before the election. The voter can return it by mail, drop it in a secure County drop box, or return it at any vote center in the County.

Vote centers will replace traditional polling places.  Approximately 25 vote centers will open eleven days before the election, 100 for four days before the elections, and 125 will be open throughout the County on Election Day.  

At these centers a voter may:

  • Vote in-person
  • Drop off their ballot
  • Get a replacement ballot
  • Vote using an accessible voting machine
  • Get help and voting material in multiple languages
  • Register to vote or update their voter registration

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters VCA page:  

https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rov/VCA/Pages/home.aspx

California Secretary of State VCA page:  

https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voters-choice-act/

— Claudia Hevel, Voter Services Committee

Our Voice, Our Vote Campaign October 16th – on KABC

Our local League of Women Voters joined a pilot initiative led by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and the Santa Clara County Office of Education to register high school students to vote.   100 volunteers visited 13 high schools across the San Jose area to register students and eligible pre-registration voters too.

Our local LWV Los Altos Mountain View members, Julie Cates, Carol Kuiper, Xiaoyan Zhao and Natalie Elefant  visited Yerba Buena High School in east side San Jose.  KABC sent a news crew to cover the event and you can watch their news segment, Pilot Registration Drive for High School Students in San Jose.