The following are the remarks given by LWVN president Marcia Johnson at our 2022 Annual Meeting which was held virtually on June 12, 2022:
As they say in show business…TAKE III. Yes, this is our third virtual annual meeting. By now we all are getting pretty comfortable with the technology, but I still want to give a shout-out to Theresa Fitzpatrick and Lisa Mirable who as our technical and event planning team make our meetings, such as this, run smoother than they might otherwise. As much as we wanted to have our meeting in-person and are disappointed, the Board felt it was too risky given the increasing Covid Omicron numbers.
As we reflect on this past year, which I think we all had hoped would be calmer, healthier, and productive, we now find that once again, we have Covid hanging over our heads and hearts. Our country is divided more than ever, and now our economy is shaky at best, especially for those with middle and low incomes. To cap it off, there is a war…in Ukraine and on democracy.
So, what kind of impact has this had on League priorities, let’s take a look:
- During this year, we saw the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and the Freedom to Vote Act fail to pass the Senate.
- Here in Massachusetts, The Votes Act has passed both the Senate and House. Currently it is in a conference committee. The major sticking point is election day registration.
- Most recently there was the SCOTUS leak about Roe V. Wade most likely being over-turned. Now this is not surprising, but it was a gut punch to women.
- The Senate was unable to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.
- Here in Massachusetts, abortion is legal for up to and in some cases beyond 24 weeks under the ROE Act, which was passed in December 2020.
- And now with two mass killings, there is slim hope for gun control in the US Senate.
In Massachusetts we are fortunate that our state government protects our civil and human rights more so than at the national level. So as League members it is important that we all pay attention to what is happening, and our MARCOM team is committed to keeping you informed as to what the state and national Leagues are doing to regarding civil and human rights…..remembering that Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Let’s now turn back to Newton and what the League has been doing to address issues and opportunities right here at home. This year, this report is taking a different approach and listing a program area and what topic meetings, advocacy, and League Presents were done to educate and influence city leadership and community members at-large. I will not go through everything, as you can read the reports that begin on page 8 but rather will highlight a few of our priorities:
Environmental Issues – Thank you to Halina Brown, Frieda Dweck, Theresa Fitzpatrick, and Stephen Grody
- We partnered with Newton’s Sustainable Materials Management Commission and held a well-attended topic meeting entitled Getting Newton to Zero Waste.
- League member Halina Brown and chair of Newton’s Citizens Commission on Energy , in a League Presents, talked about the commission, its work on climate action and sustainability.
- Stephen Grody, a League member, who is our representative on the Energy Commission kept the Board apprised of the activities of the commission as it worked with city leaders.
Elections, Voter service and Overall Democracy Thank you to Jen Abbott, Bonnie Carter, Frieda Dweck, Theresa Fitzpatrick, and Sharyn Roberts
- The League, and its co-sponsor the Charles River Regional Chamber, gathered for another well-attended virtual presentation by the Leadership Now Project on Defending Our Democracy.
- The League, together with Brookline, Needham, Sharon-Stoughton, and Wellesley Leagues of Women Voters, once-again hosted an informative conversation with Congressman Jake Auchincloss
- Working with New TV and moderators from other Leagues, we held 12 candidate forums for Mayor, School committee and City Council. The Voter Service team developed 100+ questions with the help of League and community members. It was a real community effort.
- We had tables at several community events to register voters, and sign-up new members. We also showed off our new signs, table, and flyers. Watch our upcoming newsletters as to where you can find us next…
Housing & Supporting Programs – Thank you to Frieda Dweck, Josephine McNeil, and Maureen Reilly Meagher
- We joined Uniting Citizens for Housing Affordability in Newton (U-CHAN) to co-sponsor An Educational Forum on the American Rescue Plan Act and Its Impact on Newton. Lizzi Weyant, Director of Government Affairs at the Metropolitan Area Council, gave an overview on eligible uses of ARPA funding.
- In turn we sent a letter to Mayor Fuller with recommendations on how we thought she should distribute ARPA funds to address the needs of low-income Newton residents , communities of color and other marginalized residents who had been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- We took the opportunity to educate Newton through a two-part League Presents where we spoke with Lisbeth Heyer and Ted Hess-Mahan about Newton’s Housing Partnership and Fair Housing committee and how they provide housing guidance and expertise to city leaders and departments.
Racial Justice Thank you to Karen Manning , Maureen Reilly Meagher
- As part of the League’s Community Book Group and in partnership with the Harmony Foundation, we discussed Dr. Martin Luther King’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community.
- We got to know Hattie Kerwin Derrick, and learned about the important role that the Director of Community Engagement & Inclusion plays in our community.
These programs are what I call the fun stuff… As in any organization there are critical activities that do not get as much “press” or promotion, but they are no less important, and I want to highlight these efforts.
- There is the CPC Observation Committee – which frankly is Judy Jaffee. She did the observations and more importantly, she developed a process and tools for future observers. She has made the job easy. Of course, City Hall has made this a bit easier with Zoom…so please sign up and join Judy.
- As you will learn more about later, we are updating our position statements and are thinking about a consensus study on zoning…lots of opportunity for you to all become engaged and share your thoughts. This was driven by Frieda Dweck with Linda Morrison providing League expertise and experience. I hope that folks will join this important effort.
- Then there is the infamous Marketing & Communications team of Jen Abbott, Frieda Dweck, Karen Manning, and Lisa Mirable. This team has worked tirelessly together, for three years, to keep you informed of what is going on within our League and that of the state and national leagues.
- Then there is our Legislative Liaison Jack Lovett who kept contact with our state delegation.
- Of course, we cannot forget our treasurer, Andrea Kozinetz…she keeps us on the straight and narrow by watching our finances and tracking our membership renewals and contributions…AND Judy Jaffe who as our Clerk kept us on track and focused during Board meetings. . They both are valuable resources on state and local practices.
- On a personal note, I want to thank Linda Green and Jack Lovett for taking part in a League Presents on What it means to be a League of Women Voters Member. If you have not seen this program, I encourage you to do so. We will be using this in membership activities this coming year.
Though we have accomplished a great deal this year, the League is really about its members, and I want to thank you all. During these long and drawn-out difficult times, you have stuck with us, attended our meetings, helped us to promote our work, invited your friends to join the League and attend our programs. Many of you have also made additional contributions to the League, please see appendix A in your workbook. Thank you so very much. All of the contributions help us to further our work. You are an outstanding group of men and women, and we all have much to be thankful for and proud of…
Now, I want to take a special moment to acknowledge and thank the Board members who are retiring:
Josephine McNeil has been a League member since 2020 and a Board member during the 2021-22 term. Josephine brought her extensive experience with developing housing for low-income families and providing the needed support services to being chair of the League’s Land Use & Housing committee. In that capacity she led our housing advocacy and educational meetings.
As a member of the Scholarship Committee, she advocated for increased scholarship awards and diversity in the selection process. On a personal level, I will miss her frank and honest voice when she spoke up for inclusion, social & racial justice in what we do as a Board and League. Josephine, thank you for further opening our eyes. Josephine you are a life-long friend, and we will continue our housing work together.
Karen Manning has been a League member since 2018 and a Board member since 2019. She was one of the founding-members of the first ever Marketing & Communication team, which has been an integral part of the League’s success over the past few years. She most enjoys promoting and working on our forums, debates including on-line programs which was extremely critical during the past couple of years. She strongly believes in community building while cultivating other partnerships and would like to continue to support the League’s effort in doing so. On a personal note, I find her to be a kind and thoughtful woman who puts people and community first. Karen, as the French say…. A Bientot which means see you soon and not good bye.
Theresa Fitzpatrick has been a League & Board member since 2015. Early in her tenure, she took on the next to impossible task, which was to fill Bonnie Carter’s shoes as Clerk and did this until about 2020. Frankly, we would have been lost without her when it came to the zoom meetings and webinars for our topic meetings during the never-ending pandemic. Her experience with technology and event planning enabled the League’s transition from in-person to virtual meetings to be easier than we had ever expected. Now if that was not enough, she has been on the League’s nominating and scholarship committees and was a member of the team, who reviewed and updated our position statements. On a personal note, I appreciated her personal feedback to me and her unique talent of bringing a realistic and pragmatic focus to Board discussions and decision making. Her talents and experience will be missed. Let’s stay in touch…you are a dear friend.
Ellen Grody has been a League member since approximately 2007 with her first task being a member of the Municipal Finance Committee. She also worked alongside Ruthanne Fuller, before she was mayor, as a member of the City Committee for OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits). She joined the Board in about 2009. Now the best way to describe Ellen and her work on behalf of the League is to ask the question….what has she not done however large or small? She led the Topic Meeting initiative; She co-chaired a consensus process for Money in Politics; co-chaired the transportation committee with Lois Levin and the 100-year celebration with Theresa Fitzpatrick . Currently she is on the membership committee and is chair of the Scholarship committee.
Ellen and I were elected to the leadership team together and have served, as a team, for three years. I would have been lost without her. She was there when I needed her. She too provided me with valuable and constructive feedback. With her knowledge of the League, and the Board she was a go-to person. She was a sounding board and most importantly a friend that I will miss….but I will still call her to go walking along the Charles.
Before closing, I want to thank the 2020-21 Board of Directors for all that you did this year and most importantly the support and kindness that you gave to me personally. Each and every one of you are valued and important to the League of Women Voters of Newton and ME A special thank you to the Executive committee of Ellen Grody, VP, Judy Jaffe, Clerk, and Andrea Kozinetz, Treasurer, I could not have completed the year without you. Lastly a special thank you to Bonnie Carter and Linda Morrison for their institutional knowledge and guidance that you provide to me and the Board.