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  Voters of Berrien 
   & Cass Counties
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March, 2019

March 21 Forum with John Austin:
"Growing New Jobs 
for the New Economy"
Soup & Sandwich Lunch: Reserve Now
     For 16 years, John Austin served on the Michigan State Board of Education--the last six as its President. Anticipating the types of jobs that would be available when students entered the workforce was important to his work then. It remains his focus now, as Director of the Michigan Economic Center, in his work with the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and as a lecturer on the economy at the University of Michigan.
     At a public forum on Wednesday, March 21, Austin will offer ideas on how to stimulate new businesses and jobs in our area. Last century, American business developed ideas, products, and processes that led to its economic dominance and, along with it, good jobs. Today, though, we face a tough new question: where are the new jobs to replace the hundreds of thousands lost to automation and global competitors? Mr. Austin will offer insights and suggestions to answer that question on March 21.
    The forum will be at 12 noon in the Lawrence Room of the Lincoln Township Library, 2099 West John Beers Road, Stevensville. The forum is open to the public; but we are requesting reservations because they are necessary for lunch planning.
     Please make your reservation now (but no later than noon on Monday, March 18) by providing your name and the name of anyone else coming with you by email to jraymond42@frontier.com or by calling or texting 269-208-4043. The charge for lunch, $10 per person, will be payable at the door.
Forum on Public Transportation
     Citizens will need to demand it if Berrien County is to get a comprehensive public transportation system. That's the point Pat Brandstatter drove home in LWVBCC's February 13 public forum at The Consortium building in downtown Benton Harbor. Some 30 people braved heavy snow, cold winds, and slippery roads to attend this important forum-evidence of the importance of the subject.
     Brandstatter, president of Kruger Plastic Products, presented the case for unifying the four separate public transportation systems currently in place. "The elected officers in our county need to hear from us more than just when we vote," said Brandstatter, who chairs the Steering Committee leading the Connect Berrien effort. The committee is urging the Berrien County Board of Commissioners to ask voters for a 0.25-mill property tax levy to support a county transportation authority. The authority would have a full-time director and an oversight board.
     Currently, Benton Harbor, Niles and Buchanan have dial-a-ride systems, and the county oversees Berrien Bus. The systems spend a total of about $4.3 million per year, Brandstatter said. Benton Harbor taxpayers now pay 1.25 mills for its service while Niles and Buchanan taxpayers pay 0.5 mill and 1 mill, respectively. Additional revenue comes from fares and state and federal grants.
     Niles officials have begun service restrictions to save money, Brandstatter said. County officials have expressed concern about Berrien Bus's viability.
The committee has crafted a series of fixed routes to serve riders from the Coloma-Watervliet area all the way to Niles, with potential connections to northern Indiana.
     Berrien has among the lowest rates of car ownership among Michigan counties, Brandstatter said. That creates hardships for workers who need to get to workplaces such as Kruger's three Berrien plants.
     But comprehensive mass transit is about more than supporting businesses, he stressed. It would help those seeking medical care, getting groceries and seeing relatives, to name a few reasons. "There are people who need the transportation system just to survive," Brandstatter told the gathering.
     Contact information for Berrien's commissioners is available at Berrien Commissioners . The site includes a district map to help you determine your commissioner.
                                                                --Jim Dalgleish

Civil Discourse Project
Initial Meeting March 4
Once upon a time, we remember, people
  • Knew how to disagree without being disagreeable;
  • Knew how to listen without trying to silence the speaker;
  • Tried to solve problems without casting blame; and
  • Sought common ground instead of widening the rift.
What happened? Is "once upon a time" always and only the beginning of a fairy tale? Or can it--at least on this issue-- guide a way forward?
      Many members of the League and of other community groups are troubled by the harsh, accusatory talk that increasingly dominates discussions of politics and policy. We want to do what we can to fix it--to recover some of those "once upon a time" approaches and find a way to use them to address issues of our day.
      Interested representatives from LWVBCC, the OutCenter, the Berrien County DAR, and perhaps other community groups are having an initial planning meeting at 11:45 a.m. on Monday, March 4. If you are interested in participating in the planning, please send a message to lwvbcc@gmail.com.
More information about this project will be forthcoming in later issues of the newsletter.
Book Group March 18: 
Michelle Obama's Becoming
      The LWVBCC book group will discuss Michelle Obama's inspiring and beautiful autobiography at Chris Zilke's home at 10 o'clock Monday, March 18.
     If you haven't read the book yet, there still is time before the book group meeting. Although it is rich with detail, it is not a heavy lift. Quite the contrary: You will feel a part of the story because much of it is history you, too, lived, but viewed from a different perspective. Michelle Obama is a keen observer and an equally good story teller.
     From her childhood in Chicago's south side to elite educational institutions in the east, to rewarding professional experiences in Chicago, to the White House and the world stage, hers is an exceptional life story told in a most accessible manner.
     If you plan to attend the book group, please let Chris know by emailing her at chris_zilke@yahoo.com or calling her at 269-449-2225. We hope to see you there.
State Convention May 17-21

     The 2019 Convention of the League of Women Voters of Michigan will be held May 17-21 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Livonia.  Members of LWVBCC also are members of the Michigan League.
     At the convention, delegates from all local Leagues in the state will conduct the organization's business. Among agenda items will be possible updates or additions to the League's policy positions. You can find the current positions at https://lwvmi.org/positions.html.
    Our LWVBCC has proposed the following updates, to support advocacy on these subjects:
  • That LWVMI's statement of position on the Social Services System be updated to provide for public transportation in all communities that is reliable, affordable, and convenient to assure that everyone who wants or needs it will have reasonable access to jobs, job training, healthcare, education, and social events. And
  • That LWVMi's statement of position on Solid Waste Management be updated to provide for education on the issue and legislation mandating resource preservation and recycling, including a ban on the distribution of plastic drinking straws and mandatory limits on the routine use and distribution of plastic bags.
If you would like to attend the convention, please email lwvbcc@gmail.com for more information.

Annual Dinner June 12
6:00 p.m. Tabor Hill Winery 
and Restaurant

     Good friends and good food in a beautiful setting: What could be better?
  • The friends: your fellow members of LWVBCC and special guest Judy Karandjeff, president of LWV Michigan.
  • The food: salad and your choice of raspberry chicken, cedar-wrapped salmon, or orecchiette pasta (vegetarian).
  • The location: the aptly-named Vineyard Room looking west toward the sun setting over Tabor Hill's beautiful vineyards.
     You are welcome to bring guests who are not members of the League, as well.
     Although the event is several weeks away, it's not too early to make your reservation. You may do that either by mail to LWVBCC, P.O. Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120, along with a check made payable to LWVBCC in the amount of $30 per person and the names of those attending; or else by PayPal through our website. Just click here.
     We intend to make this a festive occasion. One hundred years ago, Michigan women gained the right to vote in all elections. That was a year before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed that right to women everywhere in the United States. It's time to celebrate.
Environmental News
       Just a few items of interest this month.
     A tortoise that was feared extinct has been found on a remote Galapagos island. Investigators now think there MAY be more members of the species on the island. Meantime, this one has been moved to a specially designed pen at a breeding center on another island. I hope they find a mate for it. Otherwise it may have been better to leave it where they found it! Just saying!
     Do you enjoy eating frog legs?? Estimates are that between 180,000,000--that's right, million--and more than a billion frogs are harvested each year. The United States and France are the biggest importers and consumers of frog legs. I used to enjoy them. Not so much any more! If you want to learn more, go to ConservationBytes.com and look for David Bickford's article.
     According to a recent article in Bridge Magazine, Michigan, once a leader in recycling efforts, is now "in the pits" and ranks near the bottom nationwide.
     Sorry to leave you with that unhappy news. Have a good month.                                             -- 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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Monday, March 4
10 a.m.
Civil Discourse Planning Mtg.
Contact lwvbcc.org for more information.

Tuesday, March 12
LWVBCC Board Meeting
Niles District Library
1 p.m.

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
12 p.m.
John Austin Economics Forum
Lincoln Twp. Library
Open to the Public
See article at left for details.

May 17-21
State League Convention
Livonia, Michigan

Wednesday, June 12
LWVBCC Annual Meeting 
and Dinner
Tabor Hill Winery
See article at left for details.
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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