Updates From the 2017 California Convention

 

Dear members:

Imagine spending a weekend with hundreds of people who want to talk about how, together, you can make your community vibrant, safe, and strong for everyone.

League of Women Voters convention attendees have ideas. Some are new to grassroots education and advocacy; some have a lifetime of experience. Many have strong political opinions! But most importantly, everyone believes that a strong community depends upon informed and active participation by all. Your voice is essential, and they want to know what you think.

“I love being part of the League, at all levels. I can see the tangible differences our work is making for all Californians. Getting to work with an amazing group of people make all this even better.” – LWV California Board Member

When I first started in the San Francisco League, I was drawn to state and national conventions because I wanted to be better educated and bring back tools to my League. I thought improving San Francisco was very concrete. We needed to register more people to vote and motivate them to cast their ballot. We could research the city budget, learn from committees and task forces, or hold forums about candidates and ballot measures.

And yes, convention definitely is concretely educational. At the recent California convention, speakers, workshops, and caucuses (local-League events, often to promote their passions) were full of detailed information. Even if you didn’t attend, you are invited to use all the rich materials. So if you aren’t there in person, do you miss much?

Of course, it is more meaningful to hear the speakers, participate in the workshops, and learn in person. But conventions are also designed to give attendees lots of time to get to know one another. It is easy to think you’ll be a powerful advocate when you have the right tools and knowledge. However, the secret to great organizing, and to strong communities, is relationships (your ability to work together). You will make friends and find kindred spirits at convention, but the real value is trying to do hands-on work with people who don’t share your experiences and values. Without civil discourse, our democracy (and our League) is doomed. We must find a way to move forward together, without denying the humanity of others, for the common good.

“To reach [the League’s aim], study is not enough, becoming experts is not enough. Good citizenship requires not only knowledge but ability to act.” – Marguerite Wells, President, League of Women Voters 1934-44

Just one example of how democracy works in the League is the program planning process. You can read more about how it worked this year in California, in the Convention Workbook on pages 29-53. Essentially, 64 local Leagues were asked over the winter to identify the top issues our organization should focus on state-wide. The results were distilled to a set of proposals, which the state board put before the delegates at California convention. Questions were asked, people spoke pro and con about the proposals, and alternatives were suggested. After this sometimes heated process, delegates voted to share these priorities for education and advocacy for 2017-2019:

  • Making Democracy Work in California, with a focus on election reform, voting rights, expanding the electorate, and money in politics. LWVUS Program for 2016-2018 is the Campaign for Making Democracy Work, so we expect synergy between federal, state and local League work.
  • Natural Resources, including climate change, water, and land use/CEQA
  • Response to Changing Federal Policies and Budget Actions that have an impact on California in areas such as health care, immigration, the environment, and tax reform.

It is profoundly empowering to be a member of this grassroots community. Especially so, at a time when League values like civil discourse, respect, integrity, and trust are under attack. Gridlock and obstructionism are rampant. Going to convention changes your sense of what is possible, because people just like you are able to talk about and then take action on the most important issues in our lives (health care, water, race, gender, money, employment, and more). As one famous League leader said:

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” – Shirley Chisholm

San Francisco is one of the larger Leagues in our state, and one of the larger Leagues in the country, with a lot of influence because we have so many delegate votes! Unfortunately, although we were able to invite members from other Leagues to use our empty delegate slots, we didn’t send our full contingent from our own city. This was a missed opportunity. You could have been there with us!

Our League wants to send as many of our members as possible to the national convention June 28 – July 1, 2018 in Chicago. We need your help:

In gratitude,

Jennifer Waggoner, Former President

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