Working with Local Government

On April 28, 2021, the Thurston County League of Women Voters and Thurston Community Media co-sponsored a virtual forum on “Working with Local Government”.  The forum began with a presentation by local journalist, Janine Gates, on the successful decades-long effort to stop the industrialization of the Nisqually River Delta.     This effort was fueled by local residents working with their representatives to achieve a broad range of benefits.   

 

 

 

 

 

The second segment of the event included a panel discussion with four locally elected officials representing Thurston County, and the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater.  Questions for the panelists were generated from local League members and others in attendance.  The common thread of the discussion was how residents can be most effective in influencing outcomes at the local level.

A video-tape recording of the forum can be viewed if you click here.  


Redistricting 101

How is Washington’s Redistricting Commission structured?  What does it do? What policies and legal requirements guide its processes? Why should every citizen care about redistricting, and how can we best impact a fair outcome?

At a March 4, 2021 general  meeting, 20 League members explored the history of redistricting and its affect on political power dynamics, particularly involving efforts to protect incumbents and suppress competition in elections, practiced by both parties.  Our basic education was guided by a fun and interactive program presented by Alison McCaffree, the executive director of the non-partisan Politics of the Possible in Action, and Redistricting Chair of LWVWA. Alison’s expertise and enthusiasm for the subject, and her use of Zoom chat, breakout rooms and polls, helped clarify many of the complexities of redistricting.

Exploring the history of Washington and other states, we learned about the often ludicrous effects of gerrymandering to minimize the voting power of particular communities. We also discussed how other laws, such as the Voting Rights Act, impact how boundaries are redrawn to reflect the change in population.  Another consideration is how the “pencil and paper” data gathering of the 1960s that informed the Commission’s mission has been replaced by massive data collection and computational models from myriad sources, including social media.  We all agreed that more information is a positive goal, but carries unintended consequences as well.

At the close of the presentation, Alison offered some suggestions about how we can participate in, and possibly testify before, the Redistricting Commission.  The Redistricting 101 program is the first episode of the Speak Up School, out of a total of 7 modules.  Information on the schools and Commission meetings can be found by clicking here.

 

If you would like to see some of the specific information from the forum. take a look at the Redistricting Forum Toolkit that is posted on the LWVWA website.


Immigration What’s Next Forum

On February 25, 2021, the Thurston League held a forum on immigration issues, entitled “Immigration 2021:  What Happens Next?”  The forum was co-sponsored by Strengthening Sanctuary Alliance (SSA), Mason County League of Women Voters, and Asian Pacific Islanders Coalition, South Puget Sound Chapter (APIC-SPS).  Over 70 people participated in the forum, which was held virtually.  Our speakers addressed topics on the federal, state, and local levels. 

Karen Tvedt, LWVTC President, and Kathy Baros-Friedman, from the Spanish Roundtable, moderated the forum.  Steffani Powell, an immigration attorney and member of SSA and Jorge Barón, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, spoke to the myriad of issues at the federal level: what changes might come with the new administration; and what litigation is currently underway. 

The state level perspective was presented by Cariño Barragàn Talancón, with the Washington Immigration Solidarity Network.  She spoke about her organization and pending state legislation. 

From the local level, we heard from speakers representing three organizations.  Anne Fischel and Bob Zeigler informed us on SSA and its activities.  Ellen Shortt Sanchez of Elevate Mason County gave a presentation on immigration issues in Mason County.  Lin Crowley, Co-Chair of the APIC Chapter provided an enlightening educational history of Asian immigration in the United States.  She also spoke about APIC’s activities.

After the presentations, the speakers and attendants moved into breakrooms for more dialog on their respective subjects.  Breakroom facilitators, who handled questions and reported back to the group, included Joel LeBel from SSA, Ellen Saunders of SSA, Lola Flores from the Washington State Commission of Hispanic Affairs, and Shari Silverman of the Thurston County League.  The forum was a great success, and we received a lot of positive feedback.  It will be available for review soon on the LWV of Thurston County’s YouTube channel.

 

                            

 

CLICK HERE to see a video of this forum.


Centennial Wrap Up

The Centennial and the Thurston League -- A Summary of Celebration Activities

Based on a November 2020 LWVTC VOTER Special Edition article written by Sandra Herndon with Sue Lean.  Pictures provided by Rita Robison unless otherwise noted.

The year 2020 saw the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage as well as the anniversary of the League of Women Voters.  Passage of the 19th Amendment was the culmination of decades of activism and political pressure by women and men as well as jailing and beating of women at the hands of opponents. 

The Thurston League took this opportunity to conduct a variety of activities to call attention to the significance of this achievement.  Despite the intervention of the pandemic, League members, friends, and colleagues from several other organizations have been able (with social distancing and masks as required) to perform, wave signs, appear in period costume at public events, and communicate via Zoom.

Early in 2019 historian, exhibit designer, and long-time League member Sue Lean was tapped as LWVTC Centennial Liaison, both to connect Thurston with the state League activities as well as to coordinate our activities throughout the year.  She along with long-time League member, Karen Fraser, historian Shanna Stevenson, and others put together an extensive calendar to celebrate and feature women’s right to vote and League efforts to achieve it. 

Events of all kinds, involving approximately 30 people, took place at a wide variety of locations throughout 2019-2020 celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment.  Following is a timeline with a brief description of each event. Unless otherwise noted, all events took place in Washington.

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COMMUNITY CONVERSATION

The Vote! Past, Present, Future

The Thurston County LWV, with sponsorships from the Thurston County Chapter of NOW, the YMCA Youth in Government Program, the ZONTA Club of Scouth Puget Sound, and the Thurston County Auditor's Office, held a Community Conversation.  This event, which recognized the centennial of Women's Right to Vote, what held on February 29, 2020 at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy.   

The event kicked off  with a very informative and engaging presentation by Mary Hall, Thurston County Auditor, who talked about how the vote came to be, who got to vote and who didn’t, and what elections currently look like in Washington State and across the nation.

 

                                  

 

 

Following the Auditor’s presentation, approximately 30 participants divided up among seven (7) round tables. Each table had a facilitator and a scribe and was asked to address, and record participant’s responses to, three (3) questions. The “conversation” at each table followed established procedures to ensure that everyone had an equal opportunity to speak and felt free to express their viewpoints in a safe environment.

 

Not all tables were assigned the same questions, except for the final question, which every table was asked to respond to in a “lightening round”. The questions and the number of tables assigned to that question were:

  1. How do you decide who to vote for or how to vote on issues? (1)
  2. What sources of information, if any, do you use to help you decide? Are there channels of information that you think are missing? What resources have you found helpful? (1)
  3. Do you think your vote makes a difference? Why or why not? (1) 
  4. What obstacles to voting do you perceive? (1) 
  5. Other than voting, what do you think are the most effective ways for your voice to be heard? Share your stories. (2) 
  6. How do you discern between fact, fiction or opinion? (2)
  7. What do you think would motivate more people to vote? (3) 
  8. Which is more important to you — issues or candidates? (2) 
  9. What changes to our current system of voting would make voting easier? (1) 
  10. What issues are important to you in the next few years — in your county? In Washington State? In the nation? (All 7 tables)

 

 

To see the responses to the Community Conversations click here.

 


Census and Redistricting Forum

In anticipation of the 2020 Census and subsequent Reapportionment that is the foundation for Congressional and Legislative Redistricting, the League of Women Voters has encouraged Leagues throughout the county to be involved and educate citizens about these important topics. The Washington State League took steps to do so by establishing a grant program to facilitate local League educational events.  Thurston County League was privileged to have received one of these Forum in a Box Grants. Those funds were instrumental in enabling the public meeting that is described below.mp

On January 15, 2020 Thurston League members and members of the public gathered at the Olympia Center for a three-hour Census and Redistricting Forum.  The aim of this forum was to help people learn what they need to know about these two vital, but infrequent, aspects of our democracy.  The presenters focused on how the census works, how the census affects all of us, and what citizens can do to help, as well as the nuts and bolts of redistricting, and why it all matters. The program began with a very informative presentation by Lisa McLean, the Census Coordinator for the State Office of Financial Management. She offered a lively, very informative presentation that laid out the importance of the Census, as well as some of the problems and pitfalls that must be faced to get a complete and accurate count of everyone on April 1, 2020.

Following Lisa's talk, we were told about local efforts to address some of those problems and pitfalls. Sherry Sullivan, a volunteer with the Centro Integral Educativo Latino de Olympia (CIELO), and Lin Crowley, the Census Area Manager for the South Puget Sound chapter of the Asian Pacific-Islander Coalition, both described activities that their organizations are doing to reach people who might be reluctant to participate in the Census. 

      

An appeal for people to sign up to be census takers was then made by Karen Burke who works for the US Census Bureau.  Click there to see a video of the 2020 Census program that was taped by Thurston Community Media (TCM).

 

The focus of the forum then shifted to Redistricting.  Alison McCaffree and Dean Foster worked together to provide an entertaining look at this rather complex topic.  While they both mainly spoke from the perspective of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, they also shared information about examples of less successful approaches to Redistricting.

       

            

 

 


2019 Benefit Luncheon

The Education Fund Benefit Luncheon, held at the Indian Summers Country Club on October 26, 2019, was a great success.  

This is our annual fundraising event, as well as an opportunity to hear inspiring words from a government or community leader, present awards to individuals or organizations who make a difference in our community, and generally celebrate our work.

League members and friends attending the Luncheon were able to mingle and visit during check-in and lunch,, as well as while checking out Silent Auction items. While a portion of the registration for lunch, and donations that were so kindly provided, are for the benefit of the Education Fund, the bargain filled Silent Auction was held again this year to raise funds for our League’s operating account.   

We took a new approach to awarding our Citizenship Awards this year.  Rather than giving this award to an individual, two separate organizations were recognized for their contributions to our community.  They are:  CIELO, an Immigrant Support Organization, and Cascadia Research Collective, founded by John Calambokidis, a Marine Mammal Biology and Marine Ecology research group.  Click Here, or click on the ABOUT/Awards & Honors page to learn more about the award recipients.

We were honored to have Michelle Gonzalez serve as our keynote speaker.  Michelle is the inaugural director of the Washington State Women’s Commission, which was established slightly over a year ago. She spoke about the purpose of the Commission, which is to improve the well-being of women, by enabling them to participate fully in all fields of endeavor, assisting them in obtaining governmental services, and promoting equal compensation and fairness in employment for women.  It is also the purpose of the Women’s Commission to address issues relevant to the problems and needs of women, such as domestic violence, childcare, child support, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, equal compensation and job pathways opportunities in employment, and the specific needs of women of color.  

Given the limited resources of the Commission, Michelle has called on her extensive experience in both public and private settings to work with the 13 Commissioners to make sure they focus their efforts on a limited number of priorities.  She told us this is being done through a committee structure related to Economic Opportunity, Economic Security, and Safety.  These are the areas where they were active in advocacy during the last legislative session.  In addition to looking for opportunities to influence policy related to their priorities,  Joint Taskforce for a Centennial Celebration will also be busy in the coming year. 

MC Kelsey May Crane presents Keynote Speaker Michelle Gonzalez a copy of the League of Women Voters' textbook, The State We're In: Washington.

 

A big thank-you for their GOOD WORK goes to the Luncheon Planning Committee, who once again did a fantastic job.  Special thanks also go to our Ambassador for the Education Fund, Jill Severn, and the Master of Ceremonies, Kelsey Mae Crane.