LWVN Newsletter, Vol 25 Issue 1
Table of contents
- President’s Message
- Notes on Launa Zimmaro’s Talk on LWVMA and Environmental Issues
- Notes on Lisa Danetz’s Voter Suppression Presentation
- Updates on City Planning
- LWVN Remembers Susan Kaplan and Doris Lelchook
Dear LWVN members,
We hope you have been able to participate in some of the programming the League has organized this year. We’ve had topic meetings, planned a forum on ranked choice voting, created episodes of “The League Presents…” on NewTV, registered voters, celebrated our pollworkers and the holidays and so much more! And we are about to get busier, with more voter registration events coming up as well as events for people interested in running for office and candidates’ forums in preparation for this fall’s municipal election.
This is also the time of year when we think about Annual Meeting, changes to the LWVN Board, and who might be willing to get more involved next year. We are looking for someone who will continue the League tradition of observing Newton’s Community Preservation Commission (CPC) and organizing comments on applications that are before the CPC. We have a core of volunteers ready to evaluate the applications, but we need someone who can organize the response in a timely way and who can observe the (usually) monthly meetings of the CPC. The League has provided an evaluation of every application since the CPC started in 2002, but many of the League committees leaders have moved on to elected office! If you are interested, please contact us at email@example.com to find out more.
As a volunteer organization, much of our work depends on the interests of our members and where they are willing to spend their time. If you are interested in environmental and transportation issues, municipal finance, land use and affordable housing, civics and civic education, voter registration and voter education, and willing to spend some time and energy on projects, let us know and we will try to work with you to develop your interests and share them with the League community.
Please read in this newsletter about two interesting meetings we recently had–a topic meeting on voter suppression and gerrymandering and a planning meeting with a speaker on environmental issues. These are just two examples of events we love to hold so that we can all be more informed. So share your ideas with us! We’ll be holding a program planning meeting for next year on April 10th at 8 pm. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update you with the location.
Sue Flicop, LWVN President
Notes on Launa Zimmaro’s Talk on LWVMA and Environmental Issues
If you missed the State Program Planning Meeting and the presentation by Launa Zimmaro, LWVMA Legislative Specialist for Environmental Issues, you can catch up with the notes below. Thanks to Bonnie Carter and Launa for the notes!
The LWVMA Admin will be continuing to add bills to the League website as they are vetted by the Committee and approved by the Board. The website is the best spot to get detailed information about bills LWVMA supports or opposes in all our advocacy areas. Members should click on the LWVMA Advocacy tab on the home page and check the drop-down menu to find the specific information they are interested in.
Click here to get to the money in politics, 13 minute video I mentioned: Unbreaking America Solving the Corruption Crisis.
Links to articles about House Rules reforms and autocratic House control at end of notes.
Summary of comments: 3/3/19
- 6-7000 bills are filed every session in the MA State Legislature – an estimated 10% of those bills this session relate to energy and the environment or climate change
- Climate change bills under consideration for LWVMA support fall into four major categories based on bottom-line findings of the October 2018 IPCC Special Report and the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment: that urgent action is needed now and through the coming decade to reduce emissions by transitioning off fossil fuels:
- Carbon pricing
- Transitioning to clean, renewable energy
- Equity and environmental Justice
- A plan for how to achieve critical emissions reductions
Carbon pricing is a market-based approach that sets a fee, sometimes referred to as a carbon pollution fee, either on the cost of fuels that emit greenhouse gases or on the emissions themselves by capping emissions amounts from various sectors of the economy, referred to as a cap and trade or cap and invest program.
The League supports putting a price on carbon in any of its forms:
- Revenue neutral Fee and Rebate programs in which all revenue collected is returned to citizens to off-set cost increases
- Fee and Invest in which the state allocates some portion of revenue could be reinvested in programs that, for example, boost energy efficiency and/or promote clean, renewable energy programs and businesses
- Cap and Trade, also known as Cap and Invest. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is an example of a Cap and Trade Program used in Massachusetts to cap emissions from power plants. Revenue generated through RGGI has been used to promote and fund home energy audits and upgrades, etc.
For a detailed description of carbon pricing policies, please go to the Price on Carbon website which was developed and maintained by a national team of League members working on this League sanctioned site.
The League doesn’t take a position on how revenue generated is to be spent but does comment on bills.
Carbon pricing bills either approved or being considered by LWVMA follow. Bills refiled from last session are indicated with an R:
- BENSON BILL: H. 2810: An Act to promote green infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions, in TUE R
- BARRETT BILL: S. 1924: An Act to combat climate change, in TUE R
- Gives the decision to the governor but proposes disbursement of revenue as going: 60% to Transportation; 30% to school aide; 5% to environmental health and justice
- LWVMA concerned that suggested use of funds not consistent with need to mitigate climate change impacts
- GOVERNOR BAKER/EXECUTIVE BRANCH: Transportation and Climate Initiative Agreement (TCI) – A regional program
Has growing momentum and appears to be best opportunity to put a price on carbon for transportation fuels.
- Transportation and Climate Initiative Regional Agreement – nine states and D.C. have already signed-on; MA was one of the first to agree. Aims to reduce emissions from the transportation sector – largest source of emissions in the Commonwealth responsible for 39% of emissions
- Regional agreement promises greater level of reductions than achievable by single state, and sends strong transition signal to the auto and fossil fuel industry; also serves as model for other states
- Has supporting legislation: S. 2106: An Act to advance modern and sustainable solutions for transportation, Representative Lori Ehrlich and Senator Eric Lesser, in Committee on Transportation
- LWVMA WEBINAR ON TCI PLANNED FOR LATE APRIL; STAY TUNED!
Local, Clean, Renewable Energy
- ELDRIDGE BILL: S. 1958: An Act transitioning Massachusetts to 100 per cent renewable energy, in Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) R
- CREEM BILL: S. 1940: An Act for utility transition to using renewable energy (FUTURE Act), in TUE
- Covers gas leaks, rate payer charges for infrastructure and reforms to Dept of Public Utilities to allow towns, legislators and gas customers to have more access and voice in decisions made.
- GOUVEIA / COMMERFORD BILL: H. 2865: An Act to establish a net zero stretch energy code, TUE
- Balser/Pacheco BILL: H.2802/S.2005: An Act to secure a clean energy future, TUE
Here is link to a good article about this bill. I believe this is the bill that Andrea Downs was referring to at the start of the meeting.
Equity and Environmental Justice
A key factor in advocacy support for all climate change, energy legislation.
- ELDRIDGE BILL: S.464: An Act relative to environmental justice and toxics reduction in the Commonwealth, in Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture (ENRA)
- Bill text: “The Environmental Justice Act is intended to promote environmental justice, eliminate disparities with respect to exposure to environmental toxins, ensure access to environmental benefits within the Commonwealth, and implement Article 97 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, which provides that the “people shall have the right to clean air and water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise, and the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of their environment; and the protection of the people in their right to the conservation, development and utilization of the agricultural, mineral, forest, water, air and other natural resources is hereby declared to be a public purpose.”
Roadmap: How we get “there” – a fossil free, clean energy future
- MESCHINO BILL: H.832: An Act to create a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth, in Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) R
“Bill Summary: This bill would establish a new framework for the fair and efficient achievement of the Commonwealth’s climate goals by requiring Massachusetts to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to achieve our carbon emission reduction goals by 2050 while maintaining a thriving economy.”
“Why is this needed? In 2008, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) established Massachusetts as a leader in climate change mitigation by committing the Commonwealth to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 statewide emissions levels by 2050. But efforts to achieve the GWSA’s goals in the last ten years have been disjointed, and too often both short-sighted and ineffective. As a result, it remains unclear whether Massachusetts will meet its initial 2020 GHG emission reduction target. Massachusetts lacks a plan to reach its mid- and long-term carbon emission reduction goals. Newly released major climate reports expose the urgent need for more drastic action to reduce GHG emissions.”
Context: how the MA legislature operates
- Ex-lobbyist reveals how the House really works Phil Sego, Commonwealth Magazine, December 19, 2018
- LWVMA Action Alert to members to support rules reform this session, January 28, 2019
- House rules debate could get lively Andy Metzger and Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine, January 29, 2019
- House plays follow the leader: Massive vote switch shows how lawmakers do what DeLeo wants Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine, Feb. 12, 2019
Notes on Lisa Danetz’s Voter Suppression Presentation
by Frieda Dweck
On Feb 28, members gathered to hear Lisa Danetz discuss Voter suppression issues. Danetz is a public policy consultant for philanthropic foundations, has worked in the voting rights, money in politics, and democracy field as an expert, advocate, and lawyer for over 15 years. Her work has focused on improving election administration and increasing the political participation of disfranchised groups within our society through public policy research, litigation, executive and legislative advocacy, and public education. Ms. Danetz is the former legal director of Demos, a New York-based public policy center, and also worked at National Voting Rights Institute.
Lisa presented a comprehensive look at how voting rights have been affected nationally over the last 10 years or so, both negatively and positively.
Voting rights have been negatively impacted over the last decade because many politicians have been focusing on voting legitimacy, rather than on ensuring fair play. This was accomplished in three different ways: (a) voter suppression, (b) gerrymandering, and (c) abuse of absentee ballots.
Voter Suppression – involves the effort to reduce the number of people who can vote. This can be accomplished by list purging, requiring voter IDs, and manipulating the locations of polling places (siting them far away from voters, or having too few polling places) so that it makes it more difficult for certain voters to vote. Because of time constraints, Lisa mostly reviewed recent list purging efforts.
List purging – from an administrative point of view, there is a legitimate concern about maintaining an accurate list of voters. Election administrators use the lists to determine the appropriate allocation of resources for an election; ie. how many polling locations should be available, how many poll workers should be assigned to each location, etc. For that reason, it is important to ensure that voter lists are kept current and accurate. However, there is a balance between maintaining an accurate list count and making sure that names are not removed from a voter list just for a failure to vote.
The National Voter Registration Act established a process for voter removal that protects the voter. One of the ways in which it does that is by creating a mechanism by which the US Postal Service works in coordination with election boards to notify them of address changes. However, several states have asserted that the mechanisms provided for by the NVRA do not do enough to purge their voter lists of inaccuracies, and have adopted policies that have resulted in the unnecessary removal of voters from voting lists.
Ohio – adopted a Supplemental Process for list purging that permitted election boards to remove a voter from its list if they failed to vote in two subsequent federal elections. This resulted in approximately 40,000 people being removed from the voter list, without first establishing that the voter no longer resided in the voting district. The purge of voters also disproportionately affected low- income citizens.
Georgia – adopted the Exact Match Bill. If the signature on a voter does not exactly match their signature from their voter registration application (even if the signature simply misses a hyphen), their vote is not counted unless they take steps to resolve the discrepancy. This caused over 50,000 votes to be uncounted, again disproportionately affecting low income voters and voters of color.
Texas – the Secretary of State in Texas demanded a review of voter’s list against a list of driver registrations. Since non-citizens obtain driver’s licenses, the objective was to identify non-citizens who had been listed on the voter rolls. This review resulted in 80,000 names being removed from the voter rolls. What the review failed to look at, though, was how many of the non-citizens became naturalized since obtaining their licenses, and when that review was done, there were only about 80 names left of non-citizens who were on the voter list. (There is no indication that these 80 non-citizens actually voted, only that their names were on voting lists.)
All these efforts at voter suppression have become more prevalent recently because of a Supreme Court decision in 2013 in the case of Holder v Shelby County. Prior to that decision, certain states were required to obtain approval of any legislation that would affect the rights of voters before those rules would go into effect, to insure that voters’ rights were protected. This affected primarily southern states, which have had a history of suppressing the votes of people of color. The Supreme Court ruled, however, that these protective provisions were no longer required.
Gerrymandering – is the manipulation of voting districts based on political affiliation and partisan makeup. Gerrymandering has been used to benefit both Republicans and Democrats. (Since the term ”gerrymandering” originated in Massachusetts, we, of course, had to briefly mention that history – – the word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under Governor Elbridge Gerry. In 1812, Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.)
Partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional both under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection clause. Currently, there are several instances of gerrymandering being challenged in the courts. It is possible that in two instances – in North Carolina (where the districting map favors Republicans) and Maryland (where the districting map favors Democrats) – these cases will reach the Supreme Court.
Absentee Ballot Fraud – the collection of absentee ballots is the area where true fraud and cheating can occur. While we hear a great deal of concern about the need for photo IDs to prevent voter fraud at the polls, evidence has shown that this is less of a problem than absentee ballot collection.
Recently, in North Carolina, the Election Board refused to certify the outcome of the Congressional District 9 election due to a high number of questionable absentee ballots. For that district, Republicans make-up 19% of the voters, yet 80% of the absentee ballots were from Republicans.
Our discussion moved on to how voting rights have been positively impacted over the last decade.
Automatic Voter Registration. Last summer, Massachusetts joined about a dozen other states in adopting automatic voter registration regulations. AVR is expected to go into effect in Massachusetts in 2020. Whenever any Massachusetts resident interacts with either the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. The RMV or MassHealth will transfer the registration data to the city clerks, and the city clerks then send out notifications to the individuals registered. Individuals are registered without any party affiliation but have an opportunity to register with a party after the initial notification.
Other initiatives being taken by states across the country to improve voter access:
- Same Day Voter Registration
- Restoration of Voting Rights to former felons
- Electronic Registration Information Center – a database that uses up to date technology to share information about voters (age, citizenship, change of addresses). About 25 states belong to ERIC. There are some voting rights advocates who are skeptical of ERIC and believe that it can be used to prematurely remove voters from the registration lists.
All these issues are of interest to the LWV; helping citizens access the vote is one of our primary commitments.
Updates on City Planning
by Marcia Johnson
In 2013 the Board of Aldermen approved a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) at Riverside special permit. This project stalled and was ultimately deemed not economically feasible and never moved forward. Now fast forward to 2018-19. Mark Development has partnered with Normandy Real Estate Partners (original developer) to move forward with a development at Riverside. This project is larger, denser and more comprehensive in its offerings, to which many Auburndale and Lower Falls residents have voiced concerns. As a result the City Council and Mayor Fuller have taken action by approving and moving forward with Visioning for the Riverside site in order to:
- Gain community input and perspective in the development of a future vision for the site
- Produce a plan with development principles for the site that can be provided to the City Council Land Use Committee
- Develop principles and desired community benefits for future development of the Riverside site.
The TOD at Riverside, though located in Auburndale/Lower Falls, is a city-wide project. Therefore all citizens should take an interest in this project and provide feedback using this link as well as by participating in future meetings.
Washington Street Visioning
“Hello Washington Street!” is the City of Newton’s initiative to plan proactively the future of Washington Street in a community-based process with residents, local businesses, and City Councilors, with the help of the Principle Group, the planning firm under contract with the City of Newton. The thirteen-month process, started in April 2018 and anticipated to go until May 2019, will result in a vision plan and draft zoning recommendations for the areas that link West Newton to Newtonville to Newton Corner.
Thank you to those who provided feedback on the first draft of the vision. Once again, we have an opportunity to promote the need for more diverse housing, and better and safer transportation options in Newton by providing feedback on the second draft by March 13.. The voices of all residents of Newton count even if you don’t live in West Newton, Newtonville or Newton Corner.
The Final Draft is anticipated to be released in late April, so providing timely feedback is critical.
Howard Haywood Celebration
Former Mayor David Cohen once said that Rev. Haywood did more to build community in the city of Newton than anyone he knew. So it was fitting that on December 16th, more than 350 people filled Temple Shalom to celebrate Newton’s “…Beacon for Affordable Housing” Howard Haywood . In planning this event, Reverend Haywood insisted that this not be a simple party but rather there be a focus on educating the community about the hard facts central to understanding the injustices of the recent past and the barriers to equality that still exist in our society. As a result there was some very straight talk about race, prejudice, overt and structural discrimination. Let me highlight just a few thoughts:
- In today’s America, approximately half of all Black persons and 40 percent of all Latinos live in neighborhoods that have no white residents – while the average white person lives in a neighborhood that is nearly 80 percent white.
- Half of the affordable rental housing units in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area are concentrated in just 10 municipalities in the region. Concentrating subsidized and public housing in low-income areas – without providing the resources, amenities and opportunities its residents need to thrive only perpetuates inequality.
- In 134 Massachusetts municipalities in 2016 there was not a single mortgage loan to a Black borrower and in 49 cities and towns just one loan to a Black borrower. Today we are still racially divided, residentially segregated, and the wall that separates us being reinforced by the increasing racial wealth gap.
- Yet, today the economic barriers to affordable housing in Newton denying access to all those in the middle and bottom of the economic ladder requires us to do more. We cannot settle for token development, but must embrace an adequate supply of fair affordable housing as essential for a better Newton.
It was appropriate that on that date in December, Reverend Haywood was honored for his long standing commitment to social justice and especially to fair and affordable housing- as 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) . The two main goals of the FHA were to end discrimination in housing and to take significant actions to overcome historic segregation and achieve inclusive integrated communities
Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 4 million incidents of housing discrimination in the US each year – the majority of which go unreported. In Newton, we have to continue to fight for affordable housing, multi-family housing, and even at times more density in housing that will attract people of diverse backgrounds to our community.
As I was finishing this article, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Reverend Haywood. So now more than ever we need to be guardians of his legacy. That is, to have the courage to be persistent and impatient when confronted by the forces of ignorance and indifference; to be creative in finding new ways to dent and dismantle the walls that divide us; to walk humbly in his footsteps and stay the course -hopeful for a more inclusive Newton.
Thank you to Nadine Cohen, Hubie Jones, and Nancy Zollers for content of this article.
LWVN Remembers Susan Kaplan and Doris Lelchook
Long-time LWV Newton member Susan Kaplan died in December, 2018. Susan was active in a large range of community organizations, especially those that promoted the arts. She was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Newton Cable Access TV, and was also a member of the Newton Cultural Council.
Doris Lelchook, also a long-time LWV Newton member, died in December, 2018 at the age of 94. Doris was a regular presence at our lunchtime topic meetings for many years, always participating in the conversation with deep insight and a welcoming smile.