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   League of Women 
  Voters of Berrien 
   & Cass Counties
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Feb. 2019

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 11:30 a.m.
Getting from point A to point B is a big problem for many people in Berrien County. Individuals who don't have reliable and affordable transportation often have trouble getting to work, college and vocational classes, doctors, the grocery store, places to meet with family members and friends, community events, and anywhere else that's not in reasonable walking distance. Causes of this lack of access vary but often include lack of a bus route to the destination, operating schedules that start too late or end too early, and prohibitive fares.

For many of us in Berrien County, public transportation is not an issue. We don't need it and don't want to use it. Oh, sure, we may complain about the price of gas, the outrageous cost of car insurance or driving on crummy roads. But, in the end, we fill up our tanks, pay our car insurance, program the GPS and drive away doing our best to avoid the numerous patches and potholes. We have no idea, nor do we really even think about the problems of needing, wanting, and NOT having access to reliable transportation.
     Fortunately some community leaders are very much aware of the lack of adequate public transportation in Berrien County and are trying to do something about it. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has been working on the transportation issues for a number of years. It set up a Steering Committee including representatives of the four different bus companies operating in our area, city leaders, county commissioners, and private and public representatives. In 2018 the Steering Committee, based on studies authorized in 2014 and 2017, began working on final recommendations of service plan options for operations, maintenance, facilities, funding, administration and governance.
     On February 13, we can learn more about the issues and the proposals from the leader of the Steering Committee, Pat Brandstatter, President of Kruger Plastics. As a private business leader in our community, Pat knows the impact that transportation has on the economic development of our communities.
     This presentation on Transportation will take place 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 13, at the Consortium Office for Community Development at 175 W. Main Street, Benton Harbor. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns. Feel free to bring along your own sack lunch. Coffee, tea and water will be provided.     
Focus for 2019: Voter Participation
     At the annual planning session in January, your LWVBCC Board decided that the focus for 2019 should be voter participation--to encourage LWVBCC members to participate actively not only in elections, but also in the activities of the boards, commissions, councils, committees and the like on which officials serve after their election.
      Our daily lives are impacted significantly by such elected bodies. Yet we know little about the decisions they make, the people who make those decisions, the information on which they base them, or the values and principles that shape their perspective.
     How much, for example, do we know about our local library or school boards? About our village or township trustees?  Our county commissioners?  The more local the positions, it seems, the less we know about the people who fill them.  Yet many devote countless hours to such service.  We are deeply indebted to them for doing so.  We can support them better by learning more about what they do.
     A question we might ask each time we hear someone identify a problem is this: What can I, as a voter, do about it?  Understanding the problem may come first.  Helping address it should follow.
     Information on upcoming elections this year (and there will be some!) will be provided as it becomes available.
Dues Deadline Update
     If you plan to renew your League membership but haven't done so yet, you may want to know that our cutoff date for reporting this year's membership to the state and national Leagues is January 31.  We would welcome your renewal after that, too, but contact information for later renewals may not be included in our 2019 membership directory because it will go to the printer in early February. 
If you first joined LWVBCC after the 2018 directory was printed, though, your membership runs through 2019 without further payment.
     Renewal checks ($60 for an individual or $95 for two in the same household) should be mailed to LWVBCC at P.O. Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120.  PayPal renewals can be made through our website: Pay here with PayPal
     Those same addresses can be used for contributions. Our local League retains less than 10 percent of dues we collect. That means we operate on a very tight budget, and donations-no matter how small-always are welcome.
Book Group Selection for 
March: Becoming
The life of Michelle Obama is inspiring. In Becoming, she tells it beautifully. With her own special voice, she traces the trajectory her life from a modest apartment in the South Shore neighborhood on Chicago's south side to the historic mansion at the center of world power.   She shows how fully she was shaped by the warmth and integrity of the family she grew up in, the community that surrounded her, a strong will, and good teachers, friends, and opportunities. It's a very good read.

      The LWVBCC book group will discuss this autobiography at its meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 18 at Chris Zilke's home. Please join us if you can.
Update on Gerrymandering Lawsuit

     About 13 months ago, the League of Women Voters of Michigan filed a lawsuit in federal court maintaining that legislative districts drawn by the legislature in 2011 were unconstitutional because they were drawn with the intent to favor one political party over the other. Trial of the case--scheduled for 17 days--is to begin just a few days from now--on February 5.

     On January 25, however, the Plaintiffs (LWVMI and several named individuals) and the named Defendant (Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson when the suit was filed, but now Jocelyn Benson) filed a joint motion for entry of a Consent Degree that would settle the litigation instead of proceeding to a costly trial. You can find all papers filed in the case at  Gerrymandering Info .
     The proposed settlement would require that the maps for 11 Michigan House districts (none of them in Berrien or Cass County) be redrawn for use in the 2020 election. The Michigan legislature would have an opportunity to redraw the maps. If it fails to do so in a fair and timely manner, the court, possibly with the assistance of a special master it could appoint, would do so. This proposed settlement will be effective only if approved by the Court.
     This proposed settlement was entered into only by the plaintiffs and the named defendant, the Secretary of State. Some elected officials already have been allowed to intervene in the litigation, and others are seeking to do so. Moreover, the trial date has not been rescheduled.
     We will continue to watch with interest for further developments. One thing, though, seems clear: any changes wrought by this litigation will be in place only for the 2020 election because after that, new districts will be drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission that voters approved in November, 2018.
Growing New Jobs for a New Economy:
March 21 Forum with John Austin,
Michigan Economic Center
How can Michigan and the Midwest grow new businesses and jobs in today's economic reality? That is the question John Austin will address at a public forum at noon on Thursday, March 21, at the Lincoln Township Library in Stevensville.

      Austin just completed 16 years elected service on the Michigan State Board of Education, serving the past six years as President. He directs the Michigan Economic Center, a center for ideas and network-building to advance Michigan's economic transformation. He serves as a Non-Resident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs leading efforts to support economic transformation in the American Midwest. Mr. Austin also Lectures on the Economy at the University of Michigan.
     One hundred years ago, Austin observes, Michigan was that era's Silicon Valley. Here, inspired tinkerers and immigrant entrepreneurs built the prototypes and created the processes that launched America's economic dominance of the 20th Century. We put the world on wheels, invented assembly line manufacturing, created whole new products and industries making cars, chemicals, cereals, machinery, furniture, appliances and retail stores.
     Today, as our inboxes and twitter feeds fill with reports of the growing digitization of our economy, robots displacing people--the unanswered question, Austin says, is this: where are the new jobs to replace the hundreds of thousands lost to automation and global competitors in the great industries of Michigan and the Midwest. He will offer creative suggestions to answer that question on March 21.
     More information about this program will be in next month's newsletter. For now, though, be sure to save the date and time: noon until 1:30 p.m. on March 21 in the Lawrence Room of the Lincoln Township Library, 2099 West John Beers Road, Stevensville. Mark your calendar now.
State Convention May 17-21
The 2019 Convention of the League of Women Voters of Michigan will be May 17-21 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Livonia.  Members of LWVBCC also are members of the Michigan League. All are welcome-and encouraged!--to attend.

At the convention, delegates from all local Leagues in the state will conduct the organization's business (amending bylaws, approving a budget, establishing programs for the year, and the like). Everyone attending, though (not just delegates), will have opportunities to participate in workshops, learn more about the League, participate in a silent auction, and renew friendships with League members across the state. 
     Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, will be the banquet speaker. That's especially timely: this is the 100th anniversary of the Michigan League. Read more about it that history at Michigan League History
     If you are interested in attending the convention, please contact any member of the LWVBCC Board (see names on the right) or send an email to lwvbcc@gmail.com.
Annual Meeting and Dinner, June 12
It's early, but please put it on your calendar now and save the date: LWVBCC annual meeting and dinner 6:00 p.m. at Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant, Wednesday June 12. A special guest has accepted our invitation to be with us: Judy Karandjeff, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

     More information will follow as the day approaches.
Environmental Tidbits
Just a few facts this month: Nearly 2/3 of Michigan's 20 million acres of forest are privately-owned. The State manages an estimated four million acres of public forest.

      The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) also manages 360,000 acres of state game areas. Warren Dunes State Park (12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer) has a fairly large area open to hunting. There are designated hunting seasons from mid-September through the end of December and include specific dates for rabbits, turkeys, and deer with further breakdowns for handicap hunters, hunters using muzzle loaders, bow hunters, etc.
     In our own backyard, we see deer, turkeys, raccoons, squirrels and an occasional possum. This is the first year I've ever wished for more people after turkeys. We had had as many as 24 turkeys at one time. A few too many!
     On another note, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear a case concerning the right of citizens versus owners of private property that ends at the water's edge of the great lakes. Both Indiana and Michigan supreme courts have sided with the public stating that citizens have the right to walk along shorelines up to the "high water mark." For more information, Google a Detroit Free Press article by Keith Matheny dated January 14.                                        --  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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Tuesday, February 12
1:00 p.m.
LWVBCC Board Meeting
Lincoln Twp. Library

Wednesday, February 13
11:30 a.m.
Transportation Forum
Consortium Center
175 W. Main St, Benton Harbor
Open to the Public

Monday, March 18
10 a.m.
Book Group: Becoming
Chris Zilke's home
Please call Chris to let her know 
if you will be attending:

Thursday, March 21
10 a.m.
John Austin Economics Forum
Lawrence Room
Lincoln Twp. Library
Open to the Public

May 17-21
State League Convention
Livonia, Michigan

Wednesday, June 12
LWVBCC Annual Meeting 
and Dinner
Tabor Hill Winery
Details to Come

Board of Directors
Marilyn Klawiter, President
Karen Ristau,  Secretary
John Ripley, Treasurer &
        Communications Coordinator
Linda Cheek
Kathleen Fleming
Michael McCaffrey
Jane Raymond
Judy Scully
Christiana Zilke

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The League:  Helping to Make Democracy Work Since 1920!
And about to Celebrate our 100th Anniversary!
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.

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