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   League of Women 
 Voters of Berrien 
 & Cass Counties
November, 2017
President's Message


It's hunting season in northeast South Dakota, where I grew up. We lived in "the pheasant capitol of the world," we claimed, and did everything we could to deserve that title. My job was to walk the fields, our black lab Duke at my side, to scare up the pheasants so my dad and brothers could bring the roosters down.
They hunted geese and ducks, too. But my role in those quests began only after the hunters brought the mallards and Canada geese home. Then the whole family pitched in to pluck the birds, roll them in melted paraffin, and peel off the pinfeathers along with the solidified wax. Then fall time was feast time. Those memories are warm and lasting. And yes, guns were an integral part of this ritual.
      So let's talk about guns. How's that for a provocative statement? That's the problem, though: gun rights and gun control have become so polarized that civil discourse about the subject has been squelched. It's as though we are under a self-imposed gag order: no discussion of gun rights or gun control allowed except with folks you are sure share your own views. But that's not the way to solve problems.
      Now and again--way, way too often--the subject looms so large it can't be ignored: after a mass shooting. Aurora, CO; Newtown, CT; Charleston, SC; San Bernardino, CA; Orlando, FL--all in a five-year period. And now Las Vegas, where thousands of lives were profoundly, tragically, and directly affected by the acts of a single gunman with more than 20 rifles, including assault rifles, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition: almos t 60 dead, more than 500 injured (not all by gunshot), and thousands more who went to hear a country music concert but were caught up in the worst mass shooting in American history--something they are sure to remember, with anguish, for the rest of their lives.
      The v ery scope of this tragedy, some say, makes it such an anomaly that it can offer no guidance as to the legitimate role of guns in our country. Perhaps. But isn't it at least an invitation to discussion? The scope of this tragedy may be unique. The questions it raises, though, are not. If the number of deaths from firearms in the United States this year approximates those in 2014, the almost 60 deaths in Las Vegas will be less than two tenths of one percent of U.S. firearm deaths this year. 
      According to a recent National Vital Statistics Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year almost 34,000 people die from firearm injuries in the United States. That is almost as many as die from traffic-related injuries. Almost 1300 of the firearm deaths are children under 18. In addition, each year more than 67,000 (including almost 5,800 children) are injured by firearms but survive. 
      Medical and work loss costs of firearm injuries and deaths exceed $48 billion each year according to a report from the National Center for Bioltechnology Research (NCBI), an arm of National Institutes of Health. Thus year after year, the financial costs of firearm deaths and injury in our country are huge. But statistics can't measure another cost: the toll of such loss and suffering on family, friends, and communities of those who die or are injured. Can we agree at last that this is an issue of public health that cannot be ignored? 
      It's tempting to demonize guns, to say they should be banned altogether. My South Dakota memories don't lead me in that direction. But they do lead me to this: let's talk. Let's face up to the fact that we have a problem with guns in this country and work together, as concerned citizens, (a) to urge lawmakers to acknowledge that the number of deaths and injuries from firearms each year constitutes a public health and safety issue, (b) to propose reasonable restrictions on access to and use of guns that are consistent with Constitutional principles enunciated by the Supreme Court, and (c) urge our lawmakers to enact them.
     Decades ago, the League of Women Voters US, through member participation, developed and updated a position on gun control and continues to advocate for that position. You can see  it at  LWV gun control Take a look. Then let's get to work.
Special Event!
Tuesday, November 14    
"This Changes Everything" documentary at the Vickers Theater, Three Oaks.
Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

When Naomi Klein's book of the same title was published in 2014, it was described as "thorough, eloquent, a weapon of justice" based on exhaustive reporting.  The book is a blend of politics, economics and history.
     The documentary we'll be seeing is based largely on the book, filmed in nine different countries on five continents over a period of four years. Learn more at our website.
     We're hoping for audience participation after the event...no planned speaker.  Offer suggestions, ask questions; let's see what concerns us the most, what actions we may be able to take.
     Please come, support the League, make a donation if you wish, and enjoy really good company!                                   -- Chris Zilke
Time to Re-Up
It's way easier to say "thanks" than it is to say "please." So let's start with the easy part: Thanks to everyone who already has renewed his or her membership by paying dues in response to the email message we sent you October 25.  
     Now that other part: If you haven't already done so, please renew now either by mailing a check ($60 per individual or $85 per household) to LWVBCC at P. O. Box 1032, Niles, MI 49120, or via PayPal through our website: lwvbcc.org
     Our local League retains only a small part of your dues--$5 of individual or $2.50 of household payments. The rest goes to the state and national Leagues. That means we have a pretty tight budget locally. You can help us stretch it a bit be responding now so that we can limit future postage expenses. 
     Thanks once again!
Book Group

The next meeting of the book group is scheduled for January 15 at 10 a.m., at Annette Van Dusen's home in New Buffalo. Please call Annette at 269-469-0806 to let her know if you will be there. The book selected is Dreamland by Sam Quinones. The book is a compelling examination of opiate abuse all around us.
     The October meeting of the LWVBCC book group was at Emelie Shroder's home. Emelie provided tasty snacks as we had thoughtful and lively discussions about climate change. The books we discussed were Climate of Hope by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope and Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Both books offered insights and hope into climate change.
     We invite you to join us! Our book group loves to have new members.                                                            -- Jane Raymond
Holiday Party!
It's that time again!!!! Celebration with fun, food and funky drinks.  Our annual Holiday Party will be from 6-9:00 p.m.+ on Friday, Dec. 8.  And how appropriate to celebrate the holiday in a church!
      It will take place at a nonsectarian church--the Berrien Unitarian Universalist  Fellowship, 4340 Lincoln Ave., St. Joe--with plenty of parking. The church is located between Marquette Woods on the south and Glenlord on the North and is set back from the main road.  Orange sign near the entrance.   We are planning a pot luck as usual and asking you to bring your favorite dish, serving utensil and beverage, wine, beer, cocktail, or soda.  The church has a piano, so get your notes and music sheets out to belt out some holiday cheer. Attire? Dressy casual.
     The League will provide the glasses, coffee cups, plates, napkins, and utensils.   Please let me know what food you are planning to bring -- appetizers, salad, main dish, dessert-- by Dec. 2 Please call me at 269-420-9256 (mobile) or 269-469-9763 (home).  Click here to email me.
     We will be happy to have any volunteers wanting to assist with decorating and setting up.                                       --Donna Dutton
Energy & the Environment
It has now been more than a month since Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on Puerto Rico, causing extreme structural damage, vast flooding and nearly total loss of power.
     As of mid-October, over 80% of the island was still without power of any kind and it will be many months before full power is restored. Try to imagine life here in Michigan without power, without shelter, without sources of clean, safe water. I personally haven't been able to wrap my mind around that!
     Three point four million Puerto Ricans are American citizens and have been since 1917; i.e., 100 years. Though they are American citizens, they cannot vote in Presidential elections because Puerto Rico is classified as a Territory rather than a State. Imagine being a U.S. citizen but being unable to vote in a U.S. election. So much to think about!                                                               -- Chris Zilke
LWV Lake Michigan Region
This year's annual conference and business meeting is being held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Thursday, November 9.  
     The timing and location are based on the fact that both State of Lake Michigan (SOLM) and Great Lakes Beach Association are holding their conferences in Green Bay in this timeframe, November 6 to 10. 
      Many of us serving on the Board of LWVLMR will be registering for and attending sessions offered by SOLM and GLBA.
     As a member of LWVBCC, you are automatically a member of LWVMI and LWVLMR and can register to attend these events.
Judge LaSata on 
Problem Solving Berrien Courts

For the past three years, the Hon. Charles 
   Judge LaSata
LaSata has presided over two innovative problem-solving courts in Berrien County: the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program and Drug Treatment Court. Those three years, Judge LaSata said, have been the most gratifying of his life.
     At a League forum on October 5, Judge LaSata told a receptive audience about these creative programs designed to salvage and restore lives that have gone off the rails. These are collaborative programs, bringing together professional staff with differing skill sets to engage defendants in rehabilitative services rather than incarceration.
     Many steps are required of a defendant to complete Swift and Sure probation. But for Judge LaSata, two principles apply at every step along the way: "Always tell the truth, and show up." About ninety probationers currently are involved in this program. Since its inception in 2012, 137 people have completed the program and been successfully discharged from probation.
     The average Drug Treatment Court client takes about 100 drug tests during the program lasting 15 to 18 months. Since 2009, 75 have successfully completed the program. Only about 15 percent of them have committed a new offense since graduating.
     The value of these problem solving courts was brought home convincing by two guests, invited by Judge LaSata, who spoke with eloquent gratitude of the positive impact these creative programs have had on their lives and the lives of their families.
You can view the forum on LWVBCC's YouTube site, using this link: Judge LaSata video.
Committee Coordinators
Energy and the Environment : Chris Zilke
Health and Social Services: Dorothy Parker & 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: Donna Dutton & 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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Thursday, November 9
LWV Lake Michigan Region
Annual Conference and Business Meeting, Green Bay, Wisconsin 
Tuesday, November 14
Documentary: "This Changes Everything" 
V ickers Theater, Three Oaks, doors open at 6:00.  
Tuesday, Nov. 14
League Board Meeting
1:00 p.m. 
Lawrence Room
Lincoln Township Library
2099 W. John Beers Road Stevensville
Friday, December 8
LWVBCC Holiday Party
6-9:00 p.m.+
BUUF, St. Joe (see story at left)
Monday, Jan. 15
Lea gue Book Group
10:00 a.m.
Meet at Annette Van Dusen's home. Call to let her know you are attending: 269-469-0806 by Saturday 1/13.

Board of Directors
Marilyn Klawiter, President
Dorothy Parker, Vice President
Karen Ristau,  Secretary
John Ripley, Treasurer
Linda Cheek
Donna Dutton
Michael McCaffrey
Jane Raymond
Judy Scully
Christiana Zilke

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