Oklahoma was in the house as more than 700 delegates gathered for this year’s LWVUS convention in Dallas. Caucuses and training sessions covered voting rights, ending gerrymandering, climate change action, building diversity and growing sustainable Leagues – and much more. Delegates heard from a number of outstanding speakers, from Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez to NPR’s Wade Goodwyn.
LWVUS Board of Directors: Elisabeth MacNamara was elected to another two-year term as President after a challenge from another candidate. The professionalism displayed by all candidates for the board was impressive.
LWVUS 2014 Convention Delegates from Oklahoma – From left to right: Barbara VanHanken, LWV Tulsa; Deborah Langley, LWV Bartlesville; Cassie Reed, LWV Stillwater; Sheila Swearingen, LWV Oklahoma; Joanne Murer, LWV Stillwater
Lessons Learned at LWVUS Convention
• The League’s non-partisan, issue-driven work is needed as much as ever.
• Strong local Leagues build the capacity for state Leagues to tackle the big issues.
• Local Leagues need the state Leagues to take leadership in setting an action and
• Leagues around the country are growing again.
• Those taking the boldest actions and gaining visibility are growing the fastest.
Letter from the president:
Thank You For A Great Year!
It’s been a busy and successful year for the Tulsa League of Women Voters. The League membership is a collection of smart and dedicated women and men who make things happen for the better in our community. Thank you each and everyone of you who have made a difference. Below are just a few of the headlines.
Successfully Opposed City Charter Changes
Voter ID Education Campaign Reaches Many Groups
Pathfinder Award Gala Breaks Fundraising Record
Membership Increases By Nearly 60% Intervened in Lawsuit Over Recount of Special Election for HD 71
Please read on for a more complete accounting of our year, excerpted from my remarks at the annual meeting on May 7.
Fall 2011 Elections: Charter Change and Voter ID
It’s been a busy year. We started last July by publicly announcing, at a City Council Meeting, our opposition to the four Tulsa charter change proposals on the November 2011 ballot. The two most egregious and, we believe, most harmful charter changes were defeated at the polls. We spent much of last summer and fall speaking to various organizations across the city. It was a great opportunity for us to strengthen and build new relationships. At the same time, we educated the public on the new Voter ID law. At each organization we visited we shared both our opposition to the charter changes as well as the new rules for voting in Oklahoma. We were pleased to learn from the Tulsa County Election Board that there were NOT an unusual number of provisional ballots voted in the November elections. We hope that was due, in part, to our education efforts.
Pathfinder Award Gala
Also in the fall, we held a record-breaking Pathfinder Award Dinner honoring Ruth Nelson for her tireless work in the community, specifically addressing—at Ruth’s request—her years of work with the Tulsa Housing Authority. Thank you Pathfinder Chair Melani Hamilton and her committee for making that night so special. And thank you to all the members who attended. As you know, the Pathfinder dinner has become our largest annual fund-raising effort. We could not do many of the things we do without that successful dinner. I hope you will again consider attending this year’s Pathfinder on Tuesday, October 2nd, as we honor our own Nancy McDonald for her years of work in education, social services and equality. Please mark your calendars. That was Tuesday, October 2nd. We’ll be mailing save-the-date cards with all the relevant details in the next month.
Exponential Membership Growth
I’m thrilled to report that we’ve had a great year of membership growth. As of today, we have 143 members, up 57 members–or 66%– from the beginning of last fiscal year July 2011. We had set a goal of 150 members by the end of the year, so have a month left to sign up 7 more members. Please take one, or a handful, of our new membership brochures and invite your friends to join us to help Make Democracy Work.
I want to thank Membership Chair Shannon Benge for helping organize a new annual event for the Tulsa League: celebrating the League’s birthday in mid-February. This year we saw some new faces and signed up some new members at an evening event that featured both a great speaker, Sheryl Lovelady, a political consultant and the head of the Women’s Leadership Institute at the University of Oklahoma, and a Dress for Electoral Success fashion show featuring our members in various outfits that one would see on the campaign trail, from knocking doors to meet the voters to the televised debate to, of course, the swearing- in ceremony and the inaugural ball. Thank you to those who came. And thank you for the generous donations many of you sent to help celebrate the League’s birthday. Most of those donations went to our operating fund, which helps keep our office doors open. Thank you.
Relevant and Timely Program Focus
I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank our Program Chair Mary Jane Lindaman for all of her heavy lifting this year.
I fully believe that Mary Jane’s work helping shepherd through our study of good government practices that led to our public statements against the charter change proposals greatly contributed to our recent membership growth. When the League is in the public eye, taking positions on important public policy matters, voters take notice and some want to join the fight.
Mary Jane also recently led our consensus meeting on the National League’s position on privatization of government services. This position will help build the ground work for the Tulsa League to speak out when, and if, our city announces efforts to privatize our public water system, for example. Thank you, Mary Jane.
Special Election in House District 71
We’ve taken another very public stance in recent weeks, that I know has directly resulted in new members, and that is our involvement in the lawsuit over the recount of the Special Election in House District 71. We filed an amicus brief urging the state supreme court to require the Tulsa County Election Board count every legitimately-cast ballot in that election.
Thank you Board Member, and attorney, Ron Wilkinson for both writing the brief and for presenting our arguments to the Supreme Court. As you know, the court invalidated the election April 30, throwing out the nearly 3,000 votes cast. We were very disappointed by that ruling. There will not be a new election for that seat until November, which leaves those residents without representation at the State Capitol for more than one year.
From this election, we have learned of more work we need to do in educating the public about Voter ID, as well as steps the County Election Board needs to take to ensure their poll workers are properly trained in the new law and on the new voting machines.
Our work is never done. And membership in the League of Women Voters has never been more important. Thank you for your continued support of this League, and for everything you do make us successful.
Secret Money from special interests and large outside funders is corrupting our political system. Read more
Privatization is nothing new. It permeates all levels of government. It’s become a popular strategy for governments struggling with budget shortfalls and decreased revenue. Privatization affects the prison system, the education system, the way our roads are maintained and the very water we drink. These attempts at government cost saving will not likely vanish in the near future, so how do we make sure it is done in our best interests?
Join us at a consensus meeting focused on the LWVUS Privatization Study being held from 6- 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 10 at the Tulsa Opera offices, 1610 S. Boulder. All members are encouraged to attend. Rides will be provided for any members who are unable or do not wish to drive after dark. Please contact the League office at 918-747-7933 to schedule a ride or for more information about the study or study materials.
Unit meetings held in February and March and a General Meeting held on Sunday, March 4, 2012, focused on the pros and cons of privatization, the history of its use as a strategy by all levels of governments and what measures must be taken to ensure that such efforts preserve the public good. We now ask for your participation as we prepare our response to the LWVUS by reaching a consensus on the questions the study poses to each League. Read study materials here.