The League Takes Action Through Local Lobbying

PeopleMeetingBuilding on the foundational work done by last year’s LWVBAE board members, the 2015-16 Action Team has seized opportunities to continue advocating for good wages, good government and action on climate change. Co-chaired by Diz Swift and Jill Martinucci, the Team – with approval from the LWVBAE board – has proposed letters to local City Councils on issues that promote our League priorities.

Minimum Wage, Berkeley and Emeryville. Empowered by the LWVUS position that “social policy in the United States should promote self-sufficiency… and that the most effective social programs are those designed to prevent or reduce poverty,” LWVBAE sent a letter to the Berkeley City Council to support raising the local minimum wage. We requested that the Council provide a full hearing to the viewpoints and economic needs of all stakeholders, including workers, business people, and customers. The Council will discuss the second phase increase at a special meeting November 10. A similar letter was presented to the Emeryville City Council in early 2015 thanks to the alertness of member Barb Singleton. The ECC approved an increase to $12.25/hour for small businesses and $14.25 for large businesses.

Public Funding of Elections, Berkeley. Our national League position on campaign finance stresses that public funding combats corruption and undue influence, enables candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and promotes citizen participation in the political process. Last year’s board- led by President Nancy Bickel and Action Coordinator Carol Stone – supported public funding at the local level in a letter to City Council. This local measure would extend opportunitiesto those with limited resources and would expand the national discussion of limiting big money in politics. (Note: Current Berkeley limit on campaign donations is $250 per donor per candidate per election.) At a special November 10, 2015 meeting, the Council will discuss the proposal reviewed by the Fair Campaign Practices Commission. Watch our website for updated news of their action: www.lwvbae.org.

Citizens Redistricting Commission, Berkeley. After a lengthy, contentious and expensive 2010 redistricting process, President Nancy Bickel and former Action Coordinator Carol Stone participated in the initial conversations to depoliticize the way Berkeley City Council districts are redrawn after each U.S. Census. At their September 29, 2015 regular meeting the Berkeley City Council approved the proposal, as reviewed and returned by the Open Government Commission. City staff will return to the Council with ballot language for the November 2016 General Election.

Energy Utility Users Tax, Albany. League Climate Action member Preston Jordan alerted the Action Team that Albany’s Sustainability Committee will recommend to the Albany City Council a 2% tax on electricity and natural gas. Proceeds from the tax, essentially a “price on carbon,” would establish a fund to assist homeowners with energy audits and energy efficiency projects. The LWVUS supports a price on carbon emissions as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system. The Albany City Council heard this proposal at their October 19 regular meeting.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), Albany. Demonstrations of RCV systems show that RCV for at-large, multi-seat contests increases the opportunity for fairer representation of varying viewpoints in the community. Diverse perspectives, represented consistently and fairly, increase governing stability by minimizing philosophical swings of the majority. LWV California and LWVBAE specifically support “instant run-off voting,” or ranked choice voting (RCV), for single seat elections. LWVBAE Board decided to support Albany’s investigation of the voting method for their at-large City Council elections looking for better representation of all citizen points of view in elections. No date has been set for the Council’s consideration.

The Action Team tracks local issues with an eye on those to be considered by voters in November 2016. The team meets first Monday of the month, 7 pm in the League office. (Note: the November meeting will be Thursday, October 29) We welcome folks who are passionate about a particular local issue or who want to enhance their civic engagement by observing an elected board or volunteer commission. Interested?
Contact Jill Martinucci, actionjill@lwvbae.org.

– Jill Martinucci, Action Coordinator

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