League Role in Redistricting: Letter to Council on Measure S

Nancy BickelWe recently wrote the letter below to the Berkeley City Council correcting a statement made by the proponents of Measure S in both their argument and their rebuttal in the official ballot arguments. To my great concern, this letter is being misinterpreted by some opponents of Measure S to imply that the League is opposing S–which is just as wrong as the proponents attempt to imply, by using our name, that we support S.

The League Board decided to  remain neutral on Measure S at its Sept 5 meeting. At that time, we were  aware that the official argument and rebuttal supporting the measure referred to the League.  I had already had a conversation and exchanged emails, on Sept 2,  with Mark Numainville, the City Clerk,  trying to get our name removed–but it was too late. The three City Council members who authored the argument were copied on those Sept 2 emails.

Why did the League decide to remain neutral? I can’t know what was in the minds of the Board members.  Only 5 of 7 board members participated in the vote. Two board members serve on the Fair Campaign Practices and Open Government Commissions, so could not vote, since some related matter might later come before one of the commissions and they can’t take positions on election issues

All of us were aware that, at our late July Action meeting discussing League positions on local measures, League members had been divided on whether the League should support, oppose or remain neutral on S.  My own reason for wanting to remain neutral on S  was and is that I consider that all sides in the discussion about the Council’s redistricting plan and Measure S have been doing whatever they can to favor their own political views and people–to create favorable districts for council candidates who might agree with “their side.” The League can rarely be an effective voice when various political factions are competing in this way.   This is why, no matter whether the redistricting plan is confirmed by a majority of yes votes or fails, I and the League will continue to support having an independent redistricting commission in Berkeley for future elections. [See earlier story.]

At our October Board meeting, the Board agreed to write officially to the Council as a whole and to publicly correct the erroneous statement. Carol Stone drafted and I revised and sent the Oct 23, 2014 letter below.

If you hear or see people misrepresenting the League’s views, please set them straight.  Please tell them that the League is neutral on S and on the redistricting plan that S asks voters to confirm or reject.

Nancy Bickel, President, president@lwvbae.org


October 23, 2014
Mayor Tom Bates and
Berkeley City Council
By email to City Clerk

Dear Mayor Bates and Council Members,

On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville, we wish to bring to your attention that the arguments for measure S and again in the rebuttal against the arguments against Measure S, the Redistricting Measure, incorrectly state that the League of Women Voters was a participant in the creation of the Council’s Redistricting Ordinance and plan and imply that the League was a major participant.

We were not asked nor did we approve the inclusion of our name in the argument and rebuttal. In fact, the LWVBAE is neutral on Measure S. The proponents of the measure and/or the City Clerk should have asked us to sign to give permission for the use of our name.

Our participation in the adoption of the redistricting plan was brief and superficial. Our past president, Sherry Smith, at the request of the City, officiated as moderator at two or three meetings. The League had no role in arranging the meetings nor in the Council’s decision to adopt its plan.

The proponents of the measure were not correct in stating “The City Council and the League of Women Voters held seventeen (17) forums, community meetings, and public hearings on redistricting. ” This statement is highly misleading. We were not involved in 17 meetings. We did not hold any community meetings devoted to just this issue. We merely officiated at a very few meetings that we did not plan.

We hope and expect that our name will not appear on any literature, door hangers, or other material implying that we support Measure S.

Yours truly,

Nancy Bickel, President

Carol Stone, Action Coordinator

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