President’s Message — November 2014

president messageThese last months before a November election are always a busy time for League. The last weeks of September saw our League members registering voters.

League participated in National Voter Registration Day on September 23rd with a table for most of the day at Green Acres Mall.  Thanks to the many volunteers and also to Peter Rosenthal who organized this event.  Marjorie Latz also registered voters at Key Foods in Valley Stream on Saturday September 20th.  Thanks Marjorie and to her volunteers as well!

We had Candidate Forums scheduled in October at the Elmont Library and the Hewlett Woodmere Library.  Candidate Forums are the foundation of League work. Our Candidate Forum for Assembly District 20and 21 at the Hewlett Woodmere Library and had a good turnout.

The Board had to decide to cancel the Elmont Forum due to lack of full participation by each party in each race.  This was a sad day for our League.  Candidates from each party in each race would not confirm they would participate.

And this unwillingness to commit was from both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle. Because League is non-partisan and wants to provide both candidates’ positions for the office they are running, LWVSWN will not hold forums for races where both parties do not agree to participate.

There is the thought that this allows a candidate running for an office to say he/she will not participate, knowing our League will then NOT hold the forum; that candidate then appears to be “controlling” the forum process where citizens are allowed to hear their viewpoints on issues and to ask questions of the candidate.

There are many, many other venues available for citizens to hear only one of the candidates running for an office, from a Democratic or Republican club, to other civic organizations, to a local Temple or gathering at a library. Our League’s position is to educate and inform with non-partisanship as our guideline and not to provide a “one-sided” forum or gathering for an office.  Were we to do so, League would become just like all the others organizations, losing its identity and integrity as being an organization that continues to educate and inform the public with non-partisan information.

The County League also had to cancel the Candidate’s Forum at Hofstra University for Congressional District #4 (Carolyn McCarthy’s seat) with Kathleen Rice (D) and Bruce Blakeman (R).  Kathleen Rice agreed to participate and Bruce Blakeman did not agree.

At the National level, League, or any other organization, is not allowed to conduct a Forum for any Federal office when only one candidate agrees to participate; this decision is based on Federal Election Commission rules which do not allow an “Empty Chair” Forum for Federal offices (meaning only one candidate running for an office agrees to participate and the opposing party does not, thus, the “empty chair”).

Let’s hope that in future races, voters will have the opportunity–such as these just lost–to witness two or more candidates together, person-to-person, battling it out, putting forth their firmly-held beliefs, allowing our residents to choose between them and proudly acting as the embodiment of what democracy in America is all about. To lose this opportunity is a disservice to our citizens, frustrating for the League and simply wrong on the face of it.

 

A Round Table To Talk, To Listen And To Be Heard

A ROUND TABLE TO TALKFrom the moment we open our eyes in the morning, until we close them at night, we are hit with the “news of the day”.  Through newspapers, radio and television or in our cars, we are flooded with news of a world in turmoil that resounds from the turbulence in the Middle East to the political turmoil and dissension within our own borders.

There are issues that should raise questions among us all as we prepare to vote in this mid-year election.  How often do we get the opportunity to sit down and share our views on these issues with our neighbors and to hear what they’re thinking?

Well, on September 16, 2014, with the election season upon us, The League of Women Voters of Southwest Nassau held an open public Round Table meeting, at the Hewlett Public Library, to give everyone the opportunity to do just that.  We were fortunate to have Carol Carlton, an experienced, and excellent, moderator of current affairs issues, as our guide through a very spirited discussion.

Once the discussion started, it became clear, that given the opportunity for open discussion, there are many issues on people’s minds that needed to be addressed and were being ignored, avoided, or buried in rhetoric by government and by candidates.     .

We hit the ground running with an issue that too often gets ignored, and that is the “Redistricting” of voting districts lines because this year when we go the polls we will find an Amendment to the NY State Constitution, offering an opportunity to weaken the political Gerrymandering of districts that has been taking place since the early 1800’s.  This has been, and continues to be, a system that maintains the continuance of safe seats for incumbents and leaves us with a politically controlled system that limits voters choices as to whom we can vote for.

The amendment will require an independent ten person commission to redraw the Voting District lines instead of the blatantly political process presently in place.   NYPERG  and Common Cause are opposed to it because they feel it doesn’t go far enough.  They are for the “go for broke” approach which could leave us with the same very undemocratic system we presently have of keeping the Safe Seats intact.

While recognizing that the amendment does not have everything we would like in it, the League of Women Voters New York and Citizens Union  are in favor of passing the amendment.  The League is opting for incremental improvement rather than the “go for broke” approach and very possibly winding up with nothing at all.  We will continue to work, from a much improved base, for even further progress on this important issue in the future

After the above issue was explained and discussed, people started bringing up a myriad of different issues of concern.  What should we be doing about ISIS and how involved should the US be and who should we partner with, or not?  What about the immigrant children coming into this country, and the number of these children being settled on Long Island?  What are the financial effects they are having on local services, and why here?

While the U.S. Supreme Court is independent of voters, it was pointed out that due to the age of some of the Justices, in the not too distant future the party in control of the Senate will be deciding who will serve, or not.  This brought up the question of, in light of the lack of bi-partisan cooperation that presently exists, is it more important to vote for the candidate or the party?  Some one pointed to the issue of the ten points Women’s Rights bill that is being stalled in the State Legislature because one of the ten points contains protection of Rowe vs Wade.

Of course the Environment worked its way into the discussion with the issue of Fracking still waiting to be decided.  Then this followed with the deteriorating infrastructure, the need to address energy and the concerns about water.  Water is an important issue, not only here on Long Island but across the country, as far as California.  It was brought up that these issues as well as employment do not stand alone.  They are in fact intertwined and should be addressed as a singular national need.

There were other issues that were put forward and the two hour Round Table did not lack different views on several different subjects.  The meeting did not seek solutions.  It was designed, through the sharing, to stimulate thinking beyond what we came in with and to share our views with others.  All of this led to a very stimulating discussion and an equally stimulating evening.  If you weren’t there you should be sorry you missed it.

It also raised questions that we should be asking our candidates.  One can be assured they have their own views on what they consider to be the important issues.  They should be told where your concerns lie and what you think are the important issues.   They represent you.  Tell them what you think is important… because what you think is important.

 

                                                                                                                       Harris Dinkoff

Save The Date: League Day At The United Nations, November 13

south nassau hospital

The annual League Day at the United Nations will be held on Thursday, November 13. All members, family and friends are invited to join us for a fun and educational day. The day includes a tour of the UN building, lunch in the Delegates Dining Room … [Continue reading]

Voting Rights for Disabled Individuals

VOTING RIGHTS FOR DISABLED INDIVIDUALS

Greetings League Members, As some of you may know, since leaving the League I have joined Disability Rights New York as their new Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) Advocate. In this role, I work to ensure full participation in the … [Continue reading]