Cathy Lazarus, our board president, started the annual business meeting by thanking all of the dedicated volunteers who volunteered time and expertise to our League over the past year.
Together, these individuals account for around 40 members who regularly contribute to the success or our League. “That is an amazing number! That’s more than the total membership of some leagues.” These 40 include the Observer Corp, the board and all our many off-board volunteers. In addition, Lazarus thanked those who organize our popular Lunch with the League series and those who participate in our active Housing Committee and Education Committee. Many thanks to our mailing party volunteers and to those who are helping new citizens register to vote.
Lazarus Presented the Year in Review
2013/14 was a busy year for our League with many significant program initiatives; many were organized in partnership with other Leagues in Santa Clara and San Mateo County. Some of the highlights include:
- Affordable Care Act Forums
- Lunch With the League (Topics ranging from El Camino Hospital, Voter Suppression, commercial development in Los Altos and Mountain View)
- Bay Delta Conservation Plan Forum
- Registering New Citizens after Naturalization Ceremony
- “Modernizing” the look and methods of outreach for our League
- New Website
- Communicating with you on line (Voter, PayPal payments, registration)- Saves time, saves money
- Facebook, Twitter (Find us and LIKE us)
- June Candidate Forums: (Contested judicial races, assembly candidates) Much more planned for November election.
- Affordable Housing advocate (Through deeply committed housing committee)
- Launch of new LWV State Higher Ed Study thanks to our local Education Committee
Themes from National Convention in Dallas
Lazarus shared some of the major themes from the National Convention in Dallas and explained how they relate to our local League. Addressing the membership challenges is particularly important as the League begins to prepare for its 100 anniversary in 2020.
A key set of challenges is that League membership is declining nationally, is aging and is not diverse. The League is not unique in having this challenge. Most other volunteer organizations – artistic, cultural, historical, etc. – have membership issues.
League membership reached its all time high of over 150,000 members in 1962
- In 2000 national membership was just under 77,000
- In 2014 national member ship was just over 50,000
- The average age of a League Member is 73, hardly a young crowd.
- Our membership does not reflect the current diversity of our communities or Country.
She explained that to address the membership issue, the US League has developed a two-pronged strategy.
- Engage and recruit younger members. (League of Women Voters Young People Task Force was 100% millennials. This “under 45” group concluded that the old ways of attracting members will not work for current generations of millenials and those younger. The Task Force is producing a report and “tool kit” for local Leagues.)
- Reach out to minority/majority communities in our Cities and Towns. (For a historically white, middle class membership that may not be easy in some places.)
The Key Political Issues Today
Lazarus went on to identify the key political issues that engage voters as presented at the Dallas National Convention.
- Income Inequality -We have a changing national demographic that in a few years means that in most parts of the United States minority groups will become the majority in our communities. Already the case in California. If we do not find ways to improve education, income and job opportunities to these soon to be majorities the implications to our economy and social fabric are significant.
- Climate Change – There are emergent impacts on food, water, animal species with the attendant economic and societal disruptions world wide.
- Voter Suppression – It is unbelievable what is happening in other parts of the Country. Use judge example, and Texas purge of voter roles.)
- Money In Politics is a huge topic: In the 2012 election, 57% of all the superpac donations came from 47 people giving $1 million or more. .000015% of the population
What can we do about it here in Silicon Valley?
To close, Lazarus brought it all back to the local level. “So what do we do about the key political issues here at home? 2014-2015 needs to be an all hands on deck year.” Her suggestions:
- Get out the local vote in November. (A recent Leadership Group poll found projected a 32% voter turnout for November)
- Develop and implement outreach/recruitment strategies that work in Silicon Valley.
- Continue to address income inequality (which is a huge issue with increasing rents and housing) by advocating for investment in education, affordable housing and support services for low-income families and the elderly in our communities.
- Continue to educate people about the long-term effects of climate change by forming coalitions and taking action with other environmental groups like Green Town Los Altos or Sustainable Mountain View.
- Work at all levels to make sure that voter suppression legislation is repealed, that political contributions are transparent and that the forces that are turning our country into a divided monied oligarchy are not allowed to succeed. Our democracy depends on it.