The following entry is written by Toni Zimmer, LWVNJ President
I just finished participating as board member and incoming President at the League of Women Voters of New Jersey state Convention for 2011. Knowing I was about to take over the reins of this wonderful organization made the convention especially exciting for me. I watched outgoing President Anne Maiese very carefully as she led us through the event, knowing that at the next convention that would be my role!
A Green Event
This year, we had the privilege of utilizing the conference facility at the Verizon Operations Center in Basking Ridge (a few miles south of Morristown) for our event. The facility has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver certification for its environmentally friendly design and energy efficiency. To make the 1.4 million-square-foot facility more energy efficient, Verizon uses temperature sensors and energy-management systems to monitor heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Bravo, Verizon!
Step Right Up
As described in this issue’s “From the President” column, for the first time, the LWVNJ conducted a Roll Call of Local Leagues which gave each representative a chance to summarize their group’s 2-year accomplishments and activities. It was impressive to hear so many fine achievements. Congratulations to all!
When it came to guest speakers, we were definitely not disappointed. First, it was a wonderful privilege to have our LWVUS liaison, Marcia Merrins, speak to us on the important aspects of non-partisanship and elections in a new era. She was eloquent, direct, and had a sense of humor that kept a smile on our faces as we absorbed such serious information. We are very fortunate to have Ms. Merrins as our liaison and mentor.
Our other esteemed guest speaker was John Mooney, founding editor and education writer of NJSpotlight, an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey. Mr. Mooney shared his views and expertise on various school issues facing New Jersey and the important role of education journalism.
Moderator Workshop / Caucuses
Marcia Merrins conducted a comprehensive moderating workshop that covered everything from how to choose a debate format to maintaining correct protocol during the event.
Caucuses are informational sessions, often with elements of planning and strategizing. For example, members might hold a caucus to promote an action they intended later to introduce at convention. At this convention, some caucuses included these topics:
Immigration: Deborah MacMillan led this caucus which attracted more than a dozen core immigration group members and newcomers. The annual report was reviewed and the group discussed a summary of the immigration survey. Current and future conditions were discussed, including (1) the latest immigration climate in Hightstown and (2) the Morris County Freeholder board’s objection to granting in-county tuition for illegal immigrant students. The Freeholders state that money should only be used to subsidize tuition rates for students born in the United States or living in the U.S. legally.
Education: Led by Pat Libutti, the caucus explored a strategy for the progressive emergence of education study materials, i.e. PowerPoint presentations, short and/or comprehensive papers and the possibility of speaking with other Leagues to combine information meetings. Of paramount importance to the group was the impending new budget which is slated to cut a total of 20 vital education programs, including: The Jacob Javits Act program for education of the gifted; Even Start – a head start program for migrant workers; and a total of five critical literacy programs. For more information, visit: http://www.edweek.org/media/program_elimination_051211.pdf
Human Trafficking: This well-attended caucus was successfully led by Doris Schapira. Doris is currently abroad and unable to provide a summary of caucus events for this publication. However, the caucus yielded important and timely information we believe needs to be shared with members across the state, so pertinent information regarding the blight of Human Trafficking will be published in our next Voter. Thanks to all who participated in this caucus.
Awards and Accolades
Several well-deserved awards were presented to League members for outstanding service, membership longevity, and generous financial support. At the risk of inadvertently omitting a name of any of the recognized recipients, I won’t list them here. Their exceptional contributions to the League are deeply appreciated.
Approved Study Programs and Board Actions
Study: The delegates voted by voice majority to approve a study on electronic voting devices. For a number of years it has been a concern of the national League that electronic voting devices are not secure unless fully backed up by paper ballots that can be used to verify that the machines worked correctly. New Jersey currently has very few machines with paper trails, and we are thus dangerously dependent on the adequacy of the electronic devices and software. This study will investigate the situation in New Jersey, determine what plans are afoot to solve the problem, and make recommendations on what the League should support or oppose. One of the great things about this organization is that we always carefully study issues and come to member consensus before taking a position.
Board Action: A number of delegates came together to urge action against human trafficking, which they said was disturbingly common in our state. They proposed, and the delegates agreed, that the board should write to the Attorney General to urge him to use the utmost effort to train law enforcement to recognize and to rescue and assist victims and to prosecute the perpetrators of human trafficking.
As usual, this League convention was engaging and fast paced. Our one-day format made it even more so than when we had one and a half day conventions. I learned a lot, enjoyed the give and take of discussion and issues, and I’m looking forward to leading the organization for the next two years. If you are not already a member, I hope you will join us as we move forward with our important work.