A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change
August | 2021
Message from the Steering Committee
A Message From This Month's Chair,
Phyllis Lehrer
The League looks ahead.
It is August but plans for the November town election have begun.
Some League members have already met with Amherst Town Clerk Sue Audette.
Initial discussion provides the groundwork for voter registration, contacting candidates, scheduling forums for candidates, preparing an election guide, information about registration and the election.
Issues to be determined—real or zoom candidate forums? Where to register voters —Farmer’s market,? Jones library lawn? Publicity—email? Newspaper ads? Fliers?

The other item is recruiting volunteers to carry out the plans. Can you sit for an hour to register voters? Can you proof read the election guide? Can you design a flier? Can you donate some money to offset the cost of ads and the guide?
One look ahead is done and on the calendar. Pencil in Sept. 23 for the League’s opening meeting with our own member Sudha Setty speaking. 
Thank you for your help.

~ Phyllis Lehrer
In Memoriam
Lucy Wilson Benson
1927 – 2021

Lucy was a long time member of our League. She served as president of our local League (1959–1961) as well as president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (1961–1965) and of the League of Women Voters of the United States (1968–1974). One of her many achievements as president of the national League was the admission of men to full membership in the League. Her husband, Bruce, became the first male member in 1974.

~ Janice Ratner
News from our Committees
The Good News is that temporary legislation has approved voting by mail and early voting for Massachusetts through December. Sadly, this is just a band-aid measure and does not improve voter access or security in any permanent way. 

The Amherst Town Clerk has proposed dates for early voting October 25–29 at Town Hall for November's local elections, but these may change. Several Councilors requested at least one evening and one weekend option. Mail-in voting and the Ballot Drop Box at Town Hall will also be available. Over half of registered voters in Amherst used mail-in voting in the 2020 election!

Volunteers are needed for voter registration, candidate forums, and voter guides. Contact Kathy Campbell, Cynthia Brubaker or Bonnie Isman to get involved.  

~ Bonnie Isman
The latest IPCC report: You may well have read or heard about the recently issued Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the physical sciences’ evidence on the Climate Emergency. If you’d like to read the report itself, you can find it below. Several other reports will be issued in the fall. The news is not good.
From the LWVMA Legislative Action Committee (LAC)’s Launa Zimmaro, member of LVWUS’s climate group, on August 10 in response to the report:
“I would like to suggest that we focus our energies and attention on passage of the Budget Reconciliation bill, the bill that has provisions that directly deal with limiting emissions/warming so directly related to the bottom line of the IPCC report: The urgent need to act. We have zero days left to address climate change in any meaningful way.”
Update on TUE hearing on DOER’s plan to change its requirements, making large-scale biomass power plants more profitable. LWVAmherst added our name to the petition to the Joint Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee (TUE), asking for a public hearing on the proposal. On July 30, TUE held the hearing. (If you’d like to hear it, you can find it here: https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/3894.)  Patrick Woodcock, the Commissioner of DOER (Department of Energy Resources) presented the proposal. 
DOER had, at TUE’s request, provided a map of the areas in Massachusetts where such plants could not be built because of the new requirement (a result of the outcry against plans for a plant in Springfield) within five miles of communities of minorities and/or low- income people. The map showed only 35 communities where the plants could be built: 21 of these are in the western part of the State. Most of these communities are in Senator Hinds’ district, and as a member of the TUE, he asked probing questions about this situation.

In answer to the Committee’s questions (particularly those of Chair Sen. Barrett), Woodcock ended up asserting that there would be no new large biomass plants built in Massachusetts. Due to the increase in efficiency being required, they would not be sufficiently profitable. He acknowledged that MA taxpayers could end up paying higher electricity rates because of the permitted increased payments to biomass plants out-of-state, particularly in New Hampshire and Maine, providing us with electricity and air pollution. The members of the committee did not seem happy about that.
Eloquent testimony against DOER’s proposed changes was provided by Senator Hinds (not as a member of the Committee) and Senator Comerford. Our Senator deserves our gratitude for her thoughtful comments. Although it was not made easy for members of the public to comment, a panel of Springfield residents spoke to the health consequences of these large biomass plants and a panel of leaders of a number of Massachusetts’ environmental organizations spoke of the environmental implications.
The American Lung Association has put out the 2021 Declaration on Climate and Health: a sobering read on the anticipated health impacts of climate change, link to declaration on right:
Greetings from the Racial Justice Task Force Committee. We are now officially designated as a permanent Committee of LWVA. Our work continues!

On August 15, 1–2:30 p.m. the MA League DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Committee will host their quarterly Peer Discussion Meeting. I will be their speaker, discussing the work of the RJTF and our two reports: “Indicators of Racial Equity and Justice for Amherst” and “Building a More Diverse Amherst Town Government”. All are invited.
Here is the link to register for this Discussion Group meeting: 
We will be continuing the Brown Bag Series on October 23, 2–4 pm. The RJTF Committee will be presenting about our work. Please let us know if you have any programming ideas or requests. We’d love to hear from you!
Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) reading suggestions:
Here is an interesting article from the NY Times: Race Matters: How to Address Inequities, by Jenée Desmond-Harris

And a must-see documentary in theaters and streaming on Hulu, “Summer of Soul,” about a series of outdoor concerts in Harlem in the summer of 1967. It is moving, inspiring, and will get your dancing feet going!

~ Marcie Sclove
Chair, Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF) Committee
The Amherst Affordable Housing Trust is going to be considering ways to support the seasonal shelter. 

As of the deadline for this newsletter, there is nothing further to report about the projects described in July (Belchertown Road/ East Street; Northampton Road studio apartments, or possible purchase on Strong Street). 

On a related note, on September 2, Amherst Neighbors and LWVAmherst are co-sponsoring a forum (on Zoom) about housing in Amherst: 
The Future of Housing in Amherst: Implications for Older Adults, Families, and Students
Thursday, September 2, 4 p.m. The forum will address the following: 
  • What is the general status of affordable housing development in Amherst?
  • What housing is currently available for older adults in Amherst?
  • What are its strengths? What are its shortcomings?
  • What are the needs of older adults who are without homes?
  • Looking to the future, what do we need to develop to meet the affordable housing needs of older adults?

The panel includes:

  • John Hornik, Chair, Amherst Housing Trust
  • Donna Hancock, Highland Valley Elder Affairs (HVES) Nutrition Site Coordinator
  • Gerald Weiss, President, Craig’s Doors
  • Mary Beth Ogulewicz, former Director, Amherst Senior Center
~ Elisa Cambell
More than fifty years ago the Leagues of Women Voters in Western Massachusetts began a study of the Connecticut River. That study produced a new League position, entitled “Connecticut River Basin Inter-League Program, 1966, 1967.” At about the same time period five Connecticut River dams were undergoing a relicensing process under the direction of the Federal Power Commission. That process produced the federal rules and regulations under which these five dams have operated for the past fifty-plus years to the present day. In 1977 the Federal Power Commission was replaced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In 2012 FERC began the relicensing process for the same five dams: Turners Falls Dam and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project in Massachusetts; Wilder, Bellow Falls and Vernon Dams in Vermont and New Hampshire. FERC will shortly be opening a period for public comment on their proposals that will apply for the next 40–50 years.

Relevant to any public comment is this existing League position. We present it here in full.


The League supports measures which provide for:

  • Management and development of natural resources so as to enhance and protect the unique character of the Connecticut River Basin and to protect, maintain or restore its function as a green belt within the eastern megalopolis for the greater benefit of the populace whether urban, suburban, or rural.

  • Water quality suitable for swimming and water contact sports which will provide an excellent habitat for fish and wildlife.

  • Land use controls which will achieve the following goals:

  1. Maintain flood plains for flood protection, open space, and recreation.
  2. Protect salt marshes as an economic investment in fish and shellfish production.
  3. Protect bogs and swamps to preserve water supplies and wildlife habitats.
  4. Preserve farm lands as a long-time economic investment and for visual enjoyment.
  5. Maintain and protect open spaces, historic sites, and scenic overlooks.
  6. Protect river banks from erosion and incompatible use (e.g., town dumps).

  • Development of a wide variety of recreation facilities with particular attention to the needs of our urban population for easily accessible recreation facilities.The type of development and its location should be governed by the character of the land in order to maintain environmental quality. Facilities for recreational boating should include protected areas for canoes and sailboats; restrictions should insure boating safety and tolerable noise levels.

  • Coordination of the activities of all levels of government and the private sector through regional and inter-governmental arrangements.

~Elizabeth Davis
From the Mass League Action Newsletter

Mass League Action is indicating the Action Priorities (identified by local Leagues and adopted at Convention 2021) underlying its calls for action.

Priority: Justice and Equality

Learn More About League-Supported Legislation
NEW! Attend the Legislative Action Committee’s upcoming Zoom programs “Meet with a Specialist” to learn about bills LWVMA is supporting this session. These programs will run over the next months. Here are the two remaining in August:

August 25: Criminal Justice Reform
On Wednesday, August 25, at 7 p.m., LWVMA Criminal Justice specialists Nancy Bettinger and Lucy Costa will discuss:  H.2504/S.1578: “An Act to provide criminal justice reform protections to all prisoners in segregated confinement,” curtailing use of solitary confinement; H.1797: “An Act to reduce mass incarceration,” establishing the right to a parole hearing after 25 years in custody; H.1826/S.920: “An Act to promote public safety and better outcomes for young adults,” structuring the juvenile justice system to include people from 18 to 20 years of age.  
Register here for Wednesday, August 25, at 7 p.m.

August 26: Elections and Voting
On Thursday, August 26, at 4 p.m., LWVMA Elections and Voting specialists Nancy Brumback and Linda Freedman will discuss: H.805/S.459 “An Act fostering voting opportunities, trust, equity, and security” (VOTES Act): the comprehensive voting reform bill; H.769/S.475 “An Act supporting parents running for public office,” allowing candidates to use campaign funds for child care; H.3547/S.2261 “An Act to establish free access to ride to elections in Massachusetts” (FARE Act), making public transit free on Election Day; and H.836/S.474 “An Act to protect the voting rights of eligible incarcerated people,” providing voting assistance for those eligible and incarcerated.
Register here for Thursday, August 26, at 4 p.m.

Priority: Equitable Access to Basic Human Services

Our Health Care specialists also note that health coverage that is equitable for all Massachusetts residents is before the legislature again this year, H.1267/S.766 An Act establishing Medicare for all in Massachusetts. Please take a look at the bill and read Section 12 (Eligible Participants) and Section 15 (Covered Benefits) to understand what this bill is proposing. As a League member, you can then discuss the facts of the bill with your family, friends and neighbors.

Priority: Elections

VOTES Act Reported Out of Committee
Good news! The Senate version of the VOTES Act, S.459, was reported out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws both favorably and with no changes. That means same day registration is still in the bill, along with the requirements to join the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC) and to provide voting information to eligible incarcerated citizens, as well as the provisions to make voting by mail and in-person early voting widely available as was done last fall. The bill is now in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. We hope it gets to the Senate floor for a vote early this fall.
In the meantime, the legislature extended the expiration deadline for the emergency voting provisions on mail voting and in-person early voting adopted last fall to Dec. 15, using an amendment to the supplemental budget (not to the major fiscal year budget that is in the news). So those processes will be available for this fall’s municipal elections.
Election and Voting specialists Nancy Brumback and Linda Freedman are sending emails periodically to update interested League members on the status of the election and voting bills we are following. If you’d like to be added to that email list, please notify Nancy Brumback.
Get Involved in Civic Health Month This August

This August we are celebrating Civic Health Month, a national, month-long event to focus the nation’s attention on the strong connections between health care, healthy communities, and civic participation. The aim of this initiative is to make voting and civic participation accessible to all — particularly those underserved by the health care system. The League is supporting Civic Health Month in three ways:  
  • We encourage local Leagues to reach out to hospitals and health centers in their area to collaborate on voter registration drives in August.
  • Similarly, some hospitals and clinics may reach out to their local League to invite them to host a voter registration drive. We are excited to collaborate on these efforts.
  • We will raise awareness of Civic Health Month and its aims through social media. Find template posts for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook in this toolkit. 
Introducing the LWVUS UN Observer Corps!  

In spring 2021, the League launched a new application process to recruit talented members with international experience to support the League’s international programming. On behalf of Dr. Deborah Turner, we are pleased to announce the United Nations Observer Corps team, who started their work July 1: Chief UN Observer Dr. Connie Sobon Sensor (NJ); Observer Paulette Austin, Observer Jane Colvin (NY); Observer Sarah Hirsh (NY); Observer Dr. Madeline Motta (VT); Observer Robin Tokmakian (OR). We look forward to sharing more in the coming months about the amazing work they will do to forward our mission to empower voters and defend democracy internationally! To learn more about the team, check out their bios here.

This monthly message is for anyone interested in the League, not just members. If you know someone who might be interested, forward this message and invite them to subscribe themselves, using the link below.
The Editor of the LWVAmherst e-Bulletin, Jessica Ryan can be contacted here. The Associate Editors are Trish Farrington and Susan Millinger; Assistant Editors are Janice Ratner, Phyllis Lehrer, and Kay Fite who checks the links. Contributors to the July 2021 e-Bulletin include LWVA members Elisa Campbell, Elizabeth Davis, Bonnie Isman, Phyllis Lehrer, Susan Millinger, Janice Ratner, and Marcie Sclove. Material on LWVMA and LWVUS comes from the website lwvma.org and the newsletter League Update, respectively, selected by Susan Millinger.