A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change
December | 2020
Message from the Steering Committee
A Message From This Month's Chair,
Deanna Pearlstein
Dear League Friends,

   As I think about the League this year, I am amazed at all we've been able to accomplish and learn remotely. The steering committee is still meeting each month on zoom to plan actions that can be taken, and to plan for our future. At this time of year we are usually planning our most attended event, The Birthday Luncheon! By now we'd have invited our speaker, secured our venue, and be ready to send out invitations. We will miss all of that fun this year. I've found some photos of last year's 100th celebration and thought you'd enjoy remembering that special event, our past Presidents, the cake, and of course the suffragists. We miss seeing each of you, we hope you have a very Happy Holiday and a Healthy New Year. 

~ Deanna Pearlstein
Calls to Action

Take Action:  Legislature Session Winding Down—Still Time to Act!

The state legislature is moving into its final weeks; the session ends the first week in January. The push is on to adopt a budget and pass at least those bills that have already passed both chambers and are in conference committee.
You will be seeing a number of action alerts from LWVMA as bills come up for a vote or to get bills to the floor. Please respond! There’s not much time left. 

Two items important to LWVMA have been passed in the Legislature, sent to the Governor and returned by him to the Legislature for changes: The Roe Act components in the budget, and the police reform bill.
Contact your legislators (links below) to tell them how important it is to pass both, even if this can only be done by working for a compromise or accepting the governor’s desired changes. 

We also want the conference committees to report a strong climate change bill out for a floor vote now. Those of us concerned about the definition of biomass as a “green” fuel still need to write to encourage legislators to pay attention to the scientific consensus that biomass is NOT a green fuel and to think of the impact on Springfield, the Asthma Capital of the U.S, of a planned polluting biomass plant. Conference committee members' names and email addresses can be found by clicking here: http://lwvnorthamptonarea.org/1580-2/
 You can push for climate change legislation here.
Contact Your Legislature
News from our Committees
Greetings from the Racial Justice Task Force, December 18, 2020

Since our creation we have been busy. Some of our members started asking the question: “What is Amherst’s racial equity baseline with regards to housing, education, health, employment, education, wealth, etc.” So, Ash Hartwell and Martha Hanner, with the help of Sudha Setty, set out to find the quantitative data to answer these questions. Surprised, they discovered that this data does not exist for Amherst permanent residents, without the merging of information about UMass students. Thus, the report, “Indicators for Racial Equity and Justice for Amherst” was born. While data itself does not change anything, knowing what we don’t know is a vital step towards improving racial equity in Amherst. We have been meeting with town officials, the Human Rights Commission, and sharing the report with activists throughout Amherst.

Knowing that we don’t know is a good first step. Committing to finding these answers is only valuable if used as a tool to support creating deep and sustainable structural change. The RJTF is looking for a commitment from the town to work on the structural change. We want to assist in this process as much as we can. And we feel that the Community Safety Working Group and the People’s Assembly (sponsored by the Racial Equity Task Force) are among some of the evidence of that commitment.

Individually, our members are also steeping ourselves in education. We hope to bring some resources to you each month for you to join us in our (individual) explorations. Please help us by sending Marcie any additional resources. And let us know how we can be most helpful in improving racial equity in Amherst.

Here are some resources to begin with (so many to choose from!)

National Day of MourningLink here
Since 1970, Native Americans and our supporters have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

Podcast Series: Scene On Radio with John Biewen: Seeing White 

A short interview with Sonya Renee Taylor, below:
— Marcie Sclove
Transportation Events
(Recordings Now Available)

This month, LWVMA participated in two forums with Transportation for Massachusetts. The first event, a Transportation & Climate Initiative forum held on November 10, focused on clean transportation for rural communities. The rural focus did not prevent it from being very informative about the Transportation and Climate Initiative, based on the very successful RGGI project. (For a brief description of the Initiative, click here)  You can watch a recording of the forum here
The second event, held on November 16, was a LWVMA and T4MA transportation policy forum, mainly focused on the needs of eastern Massachusetts, but a good introduction to the work of T4MA, Transportation for Massachusetts. T4MA is a coalition focused on advocacy for reliable, safe, affordable, and sustainable transportation options in Massachusetts. LWVMA is a member of the coalition. The recording is available here

—from lwvma.org

Status of the Massachusetts Roadmap to Net-Zero 2050

“Climate Change Planning in the Commonwealth,” a webinar from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), focused on the planning process, rather than results. Attendees did learn that a report on the Massachusetts Roadmap to 2050 will soon be published. It will contain an overview of the various routes identified to reach Net-Zero by 2050, and five or six technical reports from the various committees. Perhaps of more immediate interest: EEA is working on the “Clean Energy and Climate Plan to 2030” now.

A draft report will be issued in January or February, with opportunities for public comment scheduled after that. The final report is planned for the spring.
To see the webinar power point presentation, click here
The schedule for report and public comment is on page 10.  
To keep up with what is happening, click on the 2050 Roadmap webpage, here.
For future reference, the CECP webpage: www.mass.gov/2030CECP will be live soon!

 —Susan Millinger
Water Quality
For the past three years the Connecticut River Conservancy and Save the Sound have been monitoring water quality in the Connecticut River water flowing into Long Island Sound. After two years findings give overall water quality a B+. Its lowest grade was a “C” for oxygen saturation; the bay’s water has too much oxygen. This is in part due to agricultural runoff and sewage discharge into the river. The waters were also measured for water clarity (B-), chlorophyll (B), seaweed (A) and dissolved oxygen (A+).

Tree Planting
This fall Connecticut River Conservancy will be planting 5,000 trees in the River’s watershed in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. These plantings will go primarily into sites that had summer dam removals and other river restoration projects.

Springfield, MA Discharge Permit    
After many years of delays and working under an outdated permit for the past 20 years, the EPA has issued an updated discharge permit for the Springfield, MA regional wastewater treatment plant and combined sewer overflow (CSO) system. The permit is important not only for the continued improvement of the river in lower MA and CT, but also for the work to make Long Island Sound healthy again. Connecticut River Conservancy commented on two initial drafts of the permit. They will be reviewing this new document to make sure that it adequately protects our rivers from stormwater and sewage discharge. 

—submitted by Elizabeth Davis with info gleaned from Connecticut River Conservancy Watershed-Wide News, 10/13/20
In the last few years the LWVA has built its social media presence to communicate with members, and encourage informed and active public participation in government. Our Facebook following is strong and grows continually.

This month we're excited to announce the launch of our LWVA Twitter account. Our Twitter handle is an easy-to remember one: @LeagueAmherst. So if you aren't doing so already, please follow us on social media, for information about elections, voting, LWV events and public policy issues.

You can find and follow both of our social media accounts by clicking on the icons below (which are also found at the bottom of each e-Bulletin issue along with our contact and website links).

—Marla Jamate
Studio apartments at 132 Northampton Road
The Zoning Board of Appeals approved the project with conditions, and there were no law suits filed against it. The developer is pursuing various sources of state funding. Right now, the message is THANK YOU to everyone who commented to the ZBA – it really helped!

Possible purchase of land for building affordable housing
The Community Preservation Act Committee supported the request for $800,000 to purchase some land on which to build affordable housing in Amherst. We cannot yet reveal the parcel under consideration, but negotiations with the owner are continuing (as of December 10). 

Emergency Rental Assistance Program.  
The town has had a program to offer funds to Amherst residents who rent and have been unable to pay their full rent because of the Coronavirus. Some tenants have been helped, but it’s fewer than was expected; we don’t know why. 

East Street School
Before developers will bid on this project the town needs to clarify how much hazardous materials are in the building. We hope that investigation can be done soon. 

Thanks for the League's letter in support of the Housing Trust’s request for CPA funding. In their preliminary ratings later on Thursday night, we did quite well. 

—Elisa Campbell
Reminder: 50-year League members don’t have to pay dues. However, we would like to know if you are retaining your membership so we can continue to send you the e-bulletin.

Reminder to non-50-year members, please send in your renewal forms. Then you can accrue credit and join the 50-year club.
If you can’t find your membership renewal, call Phyllis Lehrer at 253-5179 or email here.

—Phyllis Lehrer
“Formidable League Women of Massachusetts” Honored
The party celebrating LWVMA’s Centennial will be over when this ebulletin appears in your inbox, but you might like to know who Amherst chose as the special person from our League who has made remarkable contributions at the local, state and/or national League levels over the past 100 years; one of the “Formidable League Women of Massachusetts” honored at the Gala:
Lucy Wilson Benson
Member From the Early 1950s to the Present

  • President of the Amherst League, 1957-58 & 1959-1961
  • On the LWVMA Board from 1957, President of LWVMA 1961-65
  • On the LWVUS Board by 1964, President of LWVUS, 1968-1974. In her last Convention, LWVUS voted to accept men as members; Lucy had the filled-out application form with her on the podium and her husband Bruce Benson became the first man to join
  • MA Secretary of Human Resources from 1975, she resigned in 1976 out of protest of cuts in her budget she considered too deep
  • Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance, 1977-1980: the highest position a woman had yet reached in U.S. State Dept
  • Formed Benson Associates: firm of political and international consultants, after leaving government
  • (Representative)Town Meeting Member in Amherst for seventeen years
Do you have “Issues?” You need LWVMA Program Planning…

Are there issues you consider especially important? Are there others you’d like to see added? Soon it will be time for local Leagues to participate in planning what LWVMA will focus on in 2021-2023. 

Every other year, the LWVMA Board, with the help of the Legislative Action Committee, proposes 4 or 5 main areas of action and advocacy and suggests possible action goals within these priority areas. Local Leagues are asked to approve or suggest changes to the action priorities, and to respond to the suggested action goals: prioritizing the goals LWVMA suggests, and adding their own if they wish. This is also the time for local Leagues to suggest studies for LWVMA for the next biennium. Final decisions are made at Convention.

The materials for Program Planning will be available in late December. Local League leaders will schedule program planning activities. For those new to Program Planning or wanting a refresher, a webinar is scheduled for January 12. Information on registration will be available later.
Questions? Contact the co-chairs, Marie Gauthier or Susan Millinger.
Help Raise $100K for 100 Years!

Please help raise $100,000 for our 100th year by participating in this year’s LWVMA fall appeal and Phonathon. You should know that League members will be calling soon to ask for your help. LWVMA lost a major fund-raising opportunity when the pandemic led to the cancellation of the spring fund-raising event. The Phonathon is even more important this year.
LWVUS Decertifies the Nevada State League

A recent article in LWVUS’ League Update notified members that LWVUS felt it had no choice but to withdraw recognition from the Nevada State League. Note that this does not affect the membership of individual Nevadans in the National League and in their local Leagues. 

The co-presidents of LWVMA have provided Board members with additional information. The decision to decertify LWV of Nevada was only taken after six months of the national Board working with the LWV of Nevada Board to address the non-partisan and DEI issues that had been brought to their attention by some League members and others in Nevada. Once these issues came to the attention of the national Board, they sought to work through these with the Nevada LWV Board. However, the Nevada state Board was unwilling to address these issues through policy and process.  

If you would like to know more, click on this link to one of the editorials that raised concerns about violations of the non-partisan policy. It was written by the (now former) president of LWV of Nevada. The author and her supporters have left the League and formed a new organization.
LWVUS CEO Virginia Kase
on the Electoral College
Click link to read this very informative article by CEO Kase in Elle.
Engaging with High School Students?
New Activity through the Close Up Foundation   
A long-term League partner, The Close Up Foundation, is conducting the Empowering Female Voices program as an opportunity to highlight the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and the notable recent milestones of women entering elected office and public service to empower the next generation of changemakers. Students will engage with high school girls nationwide for weekly sessions to consider ways to activate members of their communities to take action on the issues that matter most to them.

If your League is working with area high schools for voter registration and would like to engage further, consider bringing this opportunity to your local schools! Here is an overview of the program. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Morgan Murray

This program runs from January 25-February 18, 2021. The cost is $150/student, which is a special price for League. 


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 December 2020 e-bulletin include LWVA members Elisa Campbell, Elizabeth Davis, Marla Jamate, Phyllis Lehrer, Susan Millinger, Deanna Pearlstein, and Marci Sclove. Material on LWVMA and LWVUS comes from the website lwvma.org and the newsletter League Update, respectively, selected by Susan Millinger.