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 League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
May, 2018
Newsletter

Newly Retired Mich. Dir. of Elections to Speak at League Luncheon
       
     Christopher Thomas, retired State of Michigan Director of Elections, will present a timely program for the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties on Tuesday, May 15, at the Lincoln Township Library, 2099 W. John Beers Road, Stevensville, MI.
Chris Thomas
      Thomas will discuss state and national issues related to elections including but not limited to Michigan's decentralized election system; voter registration; election security; and expectations for the November 2018 voter turnout and ballot issues.
      The luncheon meeting will begin at 12:30 pm and reservations are required by May 11. Email reservations should be directed to jasoko@sbcglobal.net or by text or phone to 269-362-1871. You may also pay by PayPal at no additional cost by clicking here.  The cost is $10 per person.
      Thomas retired from the Michigan Department of State on June 30 after 40 years of election administration service. He administered the Michigan election law, campaign finance act and lobbyist disclosure law. He began his election administration career in 1974 in Washington D.C. with the U.S. House of Representatives and the Federal Election Commission.
      He is a founding member of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and was elected NASED's President in 1997 and again in 2013. He represented NASED on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission from 2004 to 2017 and served as the Board Chair from 2006-2008. At the NASED Summer Conference in 2012, he was honored to receive NASED's Distinguished Service Award.
      In 2013, Thomas was appointed by President Barack Obama as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which made recommendations to improve the election day experience of America's voters.
      Thomas earned a B.A. in Political Science from Michigan State University, a M.A. in Urban Affairs from St. Louis University in St. Louis, MO, and a J.D. from Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing. In retirement, Thomas has returned to his hometown of St. Joseph where he resides with his wife Kristin who is a working artist.            -- Judy Sokolowski
Annual Dinner Meeting 
     We are delighted to announce that the site for the LWVBCC Annual Dinner Meeting will be the Buchanan Art Center, 117 W Front St., Buchanan. Join us on Thursday, June 14th at 5:30 pm. in this beautiful setting in Buchanan, Michigan. Stroll thru the Art Center, meet new and old LWVBCC friends, enjoy a glass of wine and revel in elegant and savory hors d'oeuvres. Please BYOB.
     At this event we will elect a Board of Directors and approve a budget for the coming year. Because LWVBCC bylaws require that both a Nominating and a Budget and Finance Committee have a member who is not now a member of the Board, please consider participating in this process. If you wish to volunteer, please contact Mike McCaffrey, John Ripley or Chris Zilke regarding the Budget and Finance Committee, or Karen Ristau regarding the Nominating Committee. Their contact information is in the LWVBCC Directory.
     The cost for the event is $25 payable in advance--either by check made payable to LWVBCC and mailed to LWVBCC, P.O. Box 1032, Niles MI 49120; or through PayPal by clicking here. Won't you join us on June 14th for an evening of business, friendship and art appreciation?                      -- Judy Scully
League Hosts Popular School Forum 
with Area School Execs.
     
 
Public education had four eloquent spokespeople at LWVBCC's forum on April 25: Lakeshore Superintendent Phil Freeman, Niles School Board President Dana Daniels, Bridgman Superintendent Shane Peters, and Berrien RESA Assistant Superintendent Eric Hoppstock.
      Moderator for the event was Dr. Liz Ennis, now retired after 38 years as teacher,  principal, and superintendent in public
education.

   The speakers' commitment to students and joy in their work were constant refrains even as they forcefully highlighted the daunting challenges of public education in today's world.
     According to the two superintendents, school safety is the biggest concern these days. It is addressed in several ways including "perimeter lockdown" that allows access to buildings only with permission, training teachers to recognize problems, threat assessments, and engaged teachers getting to know students. 
     Putting guns in the hands of school personnel, though, is not the answer, according to Mr. Freeman. "The day I have to carry a gun is the day I retire," he said. Dealing with mental health issues is more important now than ever--being preventative, not reactive.
     Without exception, the speakers agreed that inadequate funding is a severe problem for public education in Michigan. Funding has not kept pace with expenses, and schools are losing ground, they said. They cited several causes of the decline including the prevalence of charter schools and the fact that the state school aid fund, formerly directed only to K-12 education, now is shared with community colleges and public four-year institutions, as well.
     Inadequate funding is having another consequence that will adversely impact the long-term health of public education: fewer and fewer young people are going into teaching because salaries are too low, benefits are disappearing, and the demands of the job are so great. 
     Despite problems and challenges, good things are happening, too--including increased emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, including an excellent one at Andrews University-funding for which, unfortunately, has been curtailed by the state.
     The public should do what it can to support public education, the speakers agreed: mentor a child, get to know superintendents, have more public events like this forum, advocate for education, ask for an explanation of funding of education, and come to School Board meetings.
     It was in engaging and stimulating forum--and a strong call to action. Many thanks to LWVBCC Board member Jane Raymond (retired Berrien County teacher) for the idea of this excellent forum and for making it happen, with the help of members Linda Cheek and Chris Zilke; and to LWVBCC member (and former Board member) Liz Ennis for skillful service as moderator.
Voter Service Activity Takes Off!
    
     Welcome aboard LWVBCC's train. Destination? The voting booth. Scheduled arrival dates? August 7 and November 6. Cost of a ticket? Free. How to get one? Register.
    The effort to register people who will be eligible to vote in this year's upcoming elections is well underway.  LWVBCC has reached beyond its own membership this year, enlisting other community groups and individuals in the effort to register as many new voters as possible. 
      The effort has paid off.  Our voter services chairs, John Ripley and Michael McCaffrey, have held 5 training sessions (one each in Three Oaks, Stevensville, and Buchanan; and two in Niles), attended by some 40 participants. Additional volunteers have learned procedures through participation in registration events. 
     M ore than 160 students from 7 high schools in Berrien and Cass Counties already have been registered.  Events at 2 more schools already are scheduled, and more are anticipated before the end of this school year at area high schools and community colleges.
      The end of the school year will not be the end of registration efforts, however.  Additional events are anticipated at festivals and gatherings during the summer, and registrations at schools and community colleges will resume when classes reconvene in the fall.  The goal is to reach as many potential new voters as possible by October 9-the last day to register in time to be qualified to vote on November 6.
      LWVBCC is committed to doing whatever it can to foster an active and engaged electorate.  Voter registration is the first step in that process.  We're doing it.  All help is welcomed.  
      For more information, email League Voter Service co-chairs Michael McCaffrey at mike@michaelmccaffrey.com or John Ripley at lwvbcc@gmail.com.
June Book Group 
     
     A small but enthusiastic group met this past Monday to discuss "The Woman's Hour", The Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss.  
     Whereas much has been written, documented, filmed in great detail about the suffragists/suffragettes, we were all pretty much surprised at the fierce determination of the "anti's" to keep the legislators of Tennessee from voting to support the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  What a battle!  What subterfuge!  A terrific read !!
     Equally terrific is that the author will be coming to the area at the invitation of Forever Books of St. Joseph and our very own LWVBCC later this year.  We'll let you know as soon as a date is set.  Meantime, read the book!
      Next up:  "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan.  Though I've been coming to our Great Michigan Lake all my life and have lived within a mile of its shore for the past 40 years, I was mostly unaware of  everything the lake has suffered from or at times benefited from since the days when men decided to link these Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.  
     The Date:  Monday June 4
     The Place:  the home of Ginny and Dick Burd, Bridgman.  Please call Ginny at 269-465-3132 to let her know if you will be attending.
 Gerrymandering Update
     
     On April 24, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on another gerrymandering case: Abbott v. Perez, a case from Texas. This brings to three the number of gerrymandering cases up for decision by the Supreme Court this term.
     The two earlier cases, Gill v. Whitford out of Wisconsin and Benisek v. Lamone out of Maryland, challenge partisan gerrymandering. The Texas case has an additional wrinkle: race. The challengers maintain that when Texas redrew its congressional and state House maps after the 2010 census, it did so with the intent to discriminate against nonwhite voters. Those maps have been in dispute ever since.
     The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decisions on the three cases before the end of June. They likely will impact the numerous gerrymandering cases pending in state and lower federal courts all over the country. Among the lower federal court cases is one pending in the Eastern District of Michigan: League of Women of Voters of Michigan, et al., v Johnson. That case is a long way from decision because it was filed only this year.
     In addition, Michigan voters may have an opportunity in the November general election to vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would significantly affect redistricting in our state.
     We will have a good opportunity to learn more about redistricting and at an LWVBCC public forum on July 11. Stay tuned for more information.
Environmental Tidbits
     I've mentioned the GPGP -- the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- before. Just a few more statistics: it is spread out over an area twice the size of Texas; it contains as many as five trillion pieces of plastic -- some as large as huge ocean fishing nets, tiny microplastics, plastic bags, plastic storage containers, toys. You name it, it's there!
     I decided to google "Great Lakes Garbage Patch?" and found that Lake Erie, being smaller and more shallow than the other Great Lakes, has up to 1.7 million tiny plastic particles per square mile, in addition to just about all those items mentioned above. All the other Great Lakes have similar, but not yet as serious, plastics issues.
     The impact on sea and land creatures, including humans, is huge and threatens all of us.
     Happily, there are people working tirelessly to start to eliminate these messes. Boyan Slat, of the Netherlands, has worked tirelessly to develop a system that will, starting this summer, begin cleanup of the GPGP. If successful, the system will be scaled up so that by 2020, fully implemented, the GPGP will begin to shrink.
     In Australia two young men have developed another method to begin work on ocean cleanup. I'm hopeful that within the next 10 years, researchers will never again find a dead whale with 64 lbs. Of trash in its stomach or a young sea turtle dying while pooping plastics.
    Google "Colin Schultz at Smithsonian.com" or "GPGP" for more disturbing AND hopeful information.
              -- Chris Zilke
Committee Coordinators
Energy and the Environment : Chris Zilke
Health and Social Services: Judy Scully
Public Education: Linda Cheek & Jane Raymond
Voter Services : Mike McCaffrey & John Ripley
Budget and Finance: Mike McCaffrey, John Ripley, Chris Zilke
Membership: Marilyn Klawiter & Mike McCaffrey
Nominating: Karen Ristau
Special Events: Chris Zilke
Non-Partisan Policy
The League as an organization does not support or oppose any political party, candidate for elected office, or any group that supports candidates. As individuals, though, but not as representatives of the League, members are encouraged to participate in political activity and to run for office.  Our non-partisan policy does require two Board members--the President and the Voter Service Chair--to totally abstain from partisan political activity.  

LWVBCC: Contact Us

P.O. Box 1032
Niles, MI 49120

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Calendar/Notes
 
Tuesday, May 8
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m.
Board Room
Niles District Library
620 E. Main St., Niles
269-683-8545
________________________________
Tuesday, May 15
"Lunch with the League"
12:30 p.m.
Location: Lincoln Township Library, 2099 W. John Beers 
Speaker: Chris Thomas, Mich.
Director of Elections (ret.)
Reservation required by 5/11.
(see details in story at left)
________________________________
Monday, June 4
Book Group
"Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan at Ginny Burd's home.  Please call 269-465-3132
if you intend to attend.
_______________________________
Thursday, June 14
Annual Meeting & Dinner
5:30 p.m.
Buchanan Art Center
Reservations Required
(see details in story at left)
_________________________________
Monday, July 9
Last day to register to vote in August 7 primary election.
       _________ ______________________
Wednesday, July 11
Public Forum on Redistricting
Location/Time TBD
_______________________________
Tuesday, August 7 
Primary Election
_________________________
Tuesday, October 9
Last day to register to vote in November 6 general election.
__________________________
Tuesday, November 6
General Election

LWVBCC
Board of Directors
Marilyn Klawiter, President
Dorothy Parker, Vice President
Karen Ristau,  Secretary
John Ripley, Treasurer
Linda Cheek
Kathleen Fleming
Michael McCaffrey
Jane Raymond
Judy Scully
Christiana Zilke

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