A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change
May | 2023
Message from the Steering Committee
I write this as a member of the State League’s Membership Committee, which deals with a discouraging—and increasing—number of failing local Leagues which lack members and/or leaders.

Amherst is one of the largest local Leagues in Massachusetts, perhaps fourth largest in 2023—though two years ago we were third largest, allowed eight delegates to Convention. This Convention we are allowed 6. Still, we have a healthy number of members compared to local Leagues with five or six members. Our numbers are good, but are they headed in the right direction? Like most Leagues, our members are predominantly white women over 60. Our membership chair worries about numbers as well as diversity of age, race, social class, gender, abilities… In this we are not alone, but can we meet these challenges? And can we meet these challenges without the help of our membership?

Our leadership has been organized as a Steering Committee of 11 or 12 who usually meet monthly. Annually four or five general membership meetings are held, at two of which we present interesting speakers from outside our League. Our programming is not what it was in the days when we had a vice president for events who organized monthly programs of interest to members and the public, and often also a schedule of monthly Brown Bag events. Depending on committee chairs has not proven an effective replacement. It is true that the Racial Justice Committee has stepped in to partially fill this gap, providing the stimulating Judy Brooks Conversation Series. And the Racial Justice Committee itself is a sign of the health of the Amherst League, although it is the only committee which is regularly active.

We moved from the structure of a Board with officers headed by a president to a Steering Committee of shared leadership. There were positive reasons for this change, but not being able to find anyone who was willing to be president or voter service chair was the compelling factor. For several years the Committee had all the officers it needed. However, a number of senior members of the Steering Committee retired in 2022; more are retiring in 2023. Last year, although we could not find anyone who would be Spokesperson, we did start the 2022–2023 year with the maximum twelve members on the Steering Committee. This year the Nominating Committee could only find eight people willing to fill offices instead of the minimum nine required by the bylaws; at this time there is no nominees for Recorder and the position of Spokesperson would be held together with editing the E-Bulletin, hardly the best of situations.

This is clearly a sign of ill health. Members, can any of you offer your names to the Nominating Committee (chair, Andrea Battle) to be nominated for the missing positions?  Can you attend Annual Meeting and suggest changes which might make holding League office more attractive?

The Book Sale remains an important source of revenue, a service to the community, and a valued opportunity for members to visit with old friends and make new ones. But we lack the number of volunteers we used to have, making more work for those who do turn out to help. This year we even contemplated not holding the Sale, thinking that we could not find anyone to chair the Sale. Can you volunteer to be a sorter or to work as a cashier? (See the article on the Book Sale in this issue.)

Call to Members of the Amherst League: if you believe the League has a valuable role to play in this community, what can YOU: do to improve its health?

Susan Millinger, SC Chair of the Month
Upcoming Events

The Charter Review Task Force will present the results of its survey in a power point format Wed. May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Bangs Center. The meeting will also be seen via Zoom: register for Zoom presentation. No registration is required for the in-person meeting.
The task force developed questions that reflect the Leagues’s good government policies and procedures. Over 400 responded. Many included comments. The comments will be available to view on line.
The Town Council will form a Charter Review Group in 2024. We will make the survey results available to them.

~ Phyllis Lehrer, Charter Review Task Force
Annual Meeting, Thurs. June 15, 7 p.m. 

Expect to receive the agenda, proposed budget and the report of the Nominating Committee by email by or on June 1. The Steering Committee decided it was time to switch from snail mail to email in sending out the documents you need for the meeting. Those of you who do not use email will receive paper copies sent out by US Mail. If you need a paper copy and want to be sure to receive it, please contact this year’s chair Susan Millinger before May 25 so we can ensure that you receive the documents two weeks before the meeting, as our bylaws require.
See our website for the link to the meeting. Depending on member preference, we may return to meeting in person for the 2024 meeting.

Andy Anderson, an Amherst resident and a proponent of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), will speak to us about a petition he and Voter Choice Massachusetts are sponsoring. The petition calls on the Amherst Town Council to seek an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office about whether RCV can be implemented in Amherst by local bylaw, rather than the Town waiting for a special act by the state Legislature. The 2018 Amherst Home Rule Charter prompted creation of a Ranked-Choice Voting Commission, to propose "a measure to adopt and implement ranked-choice voting in Amherst.” Anderson will talk with us and address questions about RCV's future in Amherst, and the petition. The business meeting will follow. 

Yes, it is that time of year when the league is gearing up for our annual, giant book sale.  

Here is what is the same:

  • 1000s of books will be donated, collected, and sorted 
  • The book sale will be at Fort River School Gym
  • This is the only fundraising event of the year, the one that sustains the League's activities and philanthropy
  • To be successful the sale needs many, many volunteers
  • Those who volunteer always have fun
  • Volunteers will each get a free book every time they show up to help

Here is what has changed:

  • Collecting and sorting will be happening 7 days a week and some evenings to give people many options to participate
  • Using the handouts/email notice below we will be recruiting volunteers from the whole community: organizations, clubs,  listservs, etc.

Times and Dates
Books collected: July 6–15, 9–1:00p.m.
Books sorted: July 6–24, 9–2:00p.m., evening hours and days TBA
Books sold: July 28–30 and August 5–6; Friday 7/28: 10–6:00 p.m. All other sale days, 10–4:00 p.m.

Stay tuned to your email for updated information as we get closer to book sale season.                
Spread the Word!

The LWVA Book Group will meet Wednesday, June 7 at 2 p.m. at Applewood to discuss Wrapped in Rainbows by Valerie Boyd. It is a biography of Zora Neale Hurston.
Applewood is handicapped accessible.

~ Phyllis Lehrer 
News from our Committees

Greetings from the Racial Justice Committee (RJC) for May 2023

The next Judy Brooks Conversation Series program will be with the Amherst Sunrise Movement on May 27 at 2:00 p.m.. They are a youth driven movement and will be speaking on “Climate Justice, Intersectionality, and Race.” Registration link will be posted at www.lwvamherst.org.

We are pleased to announce that our RJC member, Jeff Gold, along with LWVA member Devorah Jacobson, will be the speakers for the LWVBoston annual meeting this summer. They will be speaking about their course, The Stolen Beam Series, which many Leaguers participated in this past winter. Another chance to participate in the Stolen Beam will be provided by the Truth School (www.truthschool.org) next fall. 

Jeff and Devorah’s presentation is a segue for the potential state-wide Study Group on Reparations. The LWVMA has approved suggesting the Reparations Study to the Statewide Convention on June 10. We are hopeful that the Study Group on Reparations will proceed!

Also, the Steering Committee unanimously approved the Transparency in Police Chief Hiring statement that we have since sent to the Amherst Town Officials including the Town Manager, Town Council, Human Resource Director, Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, and the Human Rights Commission. Here is the letter.

~ Marcie Sclove, Chair, Racial Justice Committee (RJC)

Finally, in a process that began 12 years ago, negotiations among the parties have concluded, and a settlement agreement reached.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) set the time for public comment and that concluded May 7. On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Amherst, I registered for LWVA with FERC and e-filed the statement that had been approved by the Steering Committee many months ago. My comments related only to the two dams in Massachusetts, Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility, and FirstLight, the owner of the dams.

This step is not the final step, however. FERC does not yet make the final decision. The next step moves to the state’s 401 Water Quality Certificate process wherein the state gets the opportunity to weigh in primarily on the effect of relicensing the dams on water quality in Connecticut River watershed. There will be a public comment opportunity for this state process also. Stay tuned….
- Elizabeth Davis, Connecticut River Committee

Energy and Climate bills currently supported by LWVMA

Bill#: H.3694 Title: An Act relative to the clean heat standard
This bill would establish a clean heat standard (CHS) for Massachusetts requiring that suppliers increase the share of heating energy from zero emission sources over time. The bill uses the familiar framework of clean energy credits as incentives as in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio (RGGI) since 2003.

Bill#: H.3203/S.2105 Title: An Act relative to the future of heat in the Commonwealth
Currently, gas utilities are incentivized to expand the gas pipeline network. This bill provides a regulatory and financial structure to transition gas utilities to thermal energy utilities with minimal disruption to the utilities, utility workers and customers. Among other things, it mandates gas company plans to transition from gas infrastructure to thermal energy infrastructure and pursue neighborhood-wide electrification projects with input from municipalities and customers and incentivizes installation of thermal energy infrastructure and prohibits depreciation of gas infrastructure past 2050.

Bill#: HD3774/S675 Title: An Act creating a climate bank in Massachusetts
“A [climate or] green bank is a financial institution that uses limited public funding to attract private investment in clean energy, energy-efficient housing, and other green projects. By providing financing opportunities, they make green projects more affordable and accessible to consumers, ultimately increasing their uptake.”

This bill amends the charter of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in relation to a Massachusetts Climate bank. The bill provides funding for: innovative projects to mitigate climate change; rapid adoption of clean energy; the overall transition to a decarbonized economy. The Climate Bank would be a public/private venture using public capital to bring in private sector investment. Funding would be provided via grants, equity, debt financing and other relevant financial products. 

Bill # H3690/S2104: An Act to expand the bottle bill 

Natural Resources bills supported by LWVMA

Water Resources Bills:

Bill#: H861/S425/S578 An Act Relative to maintaining adequate water supplies through effective drought management

Bill#: S476: An Act improving municipal water infrastructure

Bill#: H805/S480: An Act protecting water systems through the labeling of flushable wipes

Environmental Protection:

Bill#: H845/S445: An Act providing for the public health by establishing an ecologically based mosquito management program in the Commonwealth

Bill#: H890/S508: An Act responding to the threat of invasive species

Bill#: H2197/S1356: An Act to protect Massachusetts public health from PFAS

Bill#: H2839/S418/S1940: An Act increasing the conservation land tax credit (CLTC)

More information about these bills can be found online, or go to lwvma.org; click on Menu and then on League Advocacy and then on League- Supported/Opposed Legislation 2023-2024. Scroll down through alphabetically-organized topics.
At this site you can access the Legislature’s site for the bills.
If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you can see which of these bills were supported or opposed in previous legislative sessions. A number are not new to the Legislature.
When Legislative Action Committee specialists have given testimony on bills, that testimony, which is linked at this site, can be very informative. 

Here is the April issue of the HCR4US newsletter: read it on the HCR4US Toolkit.
LWVMA Convention
Saturday June 10, Online and in Worcester

Keynote Speaker: Danielle Allen, political scientist and classical scholar, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of its Edmond and Lily Safra Center of Ethics. Outside the University, Allen is a founder and the director of Partners in Democracy, where she advocates for democracy reform. Allen, author of Our Declaration: a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality, writes a column on constitutional democracy for The Washington Post. Allen ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2020–2022. League members may remember this inspiring speaker from our LWVMA Celebration of the Centennial. More information on Danielle Allen can be found online.

Convention Business includes the final decision about the Proposed Studies. At its April Meeting, the LWVMA Board approved the Reparations Study which Amherst proposed, the Affordable Housing and Homelessness Restudy which Northampton proposed, and a Concurrence with Utah’s Death with Dignity position: a concurrence allows one State League to accept another League’s position, arrived at by a study. All three were supported by Amherst at our Program Planning meeting in March. These now go to Convention for a final vote.

You can register here for the Convention until June 1 (until June 8 for virtual attendance.). The Amherst delegation of six has been determined, but if you are interested in being a delegate, contact Susan Millinger. Delegate slots that local Leagues don’t fill can be available for other Leagues to use.

Read the an excellent, brief constitutional history of voter's rights on the LWV blog:

"As the 2024 presidential election approaches, protecting our election laws and systems from disinformation and elimination is more urgent than ever. And ensuring that our nation’s redistricting processes promote fair representation is part of giving all people equal protection of the laws, as it gives everyone an equal opportunity to elect the representatives who make those laws."

A history and a call to action! Read more!

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.

Darcy Dumont, At-Large
Trish Farrington, At-Large
Rebecca Fricke, At-Large
Marla Jamate, Social Media
Phyllis Lehrer, Membership
Susan Lowery, At-Large
Susan Millinger, LWVMA and LWVUS liaison 
Leslie Nyman, Recorder
Deanna Pearlstein, Event Organization
Jessica Ryan, e-Bulletin editor
David Shanabrook, Treasurer
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 Phyllis Lehrer, Sue Lowery, and Kay Fite who checks the links. Contributors to this month's e-Bulletin include LWVA members: Elizabeth Davis, Darcy Dumont, Susan Millinger, Barbara Pearson and Marcie Sclove. Material on LWVMA and LWVUS comes from Mass League Action newsletter and lwvma.org; League Update and lwvus.org, respectively, selected by Susan Millinger.