Meet some of the many members of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco. Read about why they joined and how they have supported and continue to help the LWVSF to meet its important goals.
A few years ago I realized I was mad about the direction in which the country, my country, was moving. I also realized that being mad and not taking some positive action wasn’t going to accomplish anything.
I heard about an annual meeting the San Francisco League was about to have and I decided to go. It was a great experience. I asked questions about issues and got answers. I liked what the featured speaker had to say. On the way out, I picked up some information about the League and it wasn’t much longer before I took the big step and joined up.
The many projects the League sponsors are something you can wrap yourself around. And, it gives me a chance to do something positive. So I guess you can say being an active League member is a win-win situation. Shortly after joining I was invited to sit on the Board. As a Board member I learned of all kinds of opportunities to contribute to the community. Initially, I got involved in setting up candidate forums and being a speaker with the Speakers Bureau. Since then I have become very involved in the Advocacy activities of our League. You might say I help out where I can.
I have found the League of Women Voters to be an empowering organization. I can disseminate information about issues to people who need that information to become informed voters. See what I mean by a win-win situation.
I became a member of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco (LWVSF) in 1977, almost immediately after graduating from the CORO Women’s Program. The CORO program is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to train “ethical, diverse civic leaders nationwide.”
I took the CORO training because I was very interested in pursuing a career in governmental policy. However, I still had four children at home. Joining the League as a volunteer rather than working in the public sector provided a terrific education for me. Fortunately for me as it turned out, there were several studies underway, one of which was the Water Study of the League of Women Voters of California (LWVC). The study was completed in 1979 and led to the Water Position that is still guiding League action on the state level.
During my presidency of the LWVSF (1979-81), California was in a water crisis—very similar to the situation we see today. A drought-prone state with the largest population in the U. S. will always find managing water resources a challenge. After completing my term as president, I found that the Water Study had captured my interest. I became active with the LWV Bay Area Water Committee, and later served with Polly Smith as LWVC Water Co-Director, carrying the water portfolio for the LWVC. I still carry the portfolio of off-board Program Director for Water for the LWVC. Polly (LWV Marin County) is deceased, but I still miss her sage advice and our long talks about water issues of all sorts.
During the 1980s, Polly and I attended the sessions of California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), which has the power to set flow standards for the San Francisco/Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay Delta. Our League water position calls for strong environmental protections to ensure enough freshwater flows to the Bay-Delta to sustain the health of this largest estuary on the West Coast. The State Board hearings were important since it is this arena in which the standards are set. Consequently, Polly and I spent many hours in Sacramento.
Those of us concerned with the need to protect the environment of the Bay-Delta estuary argued before the SWRCB that the large freshwater diversions for agricultural and urban users should be cut back. During the long and complex history of these water battles before the SWRCB, there were several attempts to reach consensus among the stakeholder interests—urban, agricultural, and environmental. One of these consensus attempts led to the negotiation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the urban water agencies and environmental interests. The MOU was signed in 1991 and created a list of Best Management Practices for urban water conservation that urban water agency signatories agreed to implement, under certain conditions. I was part of those negotiations, which led to the formation of the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC). I still serve on the Steering Committee for the CUWCC as the representative of the LWVC.
Another resource-intensive arena in which I was active was the CALFED Bay-Delta process and the Council which oversaw the process. This state-federal council was formed in1995, again as a result of intense negotiations over how much freshwater would flow through the Bay-Delta to the ocean. The Council included representatives of state and federal agencies and stakeholders from agricultural, urban, and environmental sectors. I represented the LWVC and was part of the environmental bloc.
To explain, CALFED was an effort to coordinate the many state (CAL) and federal (FED) agencies that have a role in managing California’s water resources. The goal was to produce a comprehensive water management plan for the state. In 2000, this work culminated in a Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD approved a long-term plan for restoring ecological health and improving water management in the Bay-Delta system.
The CALFED process has since morphed into the current attempt to forge another agreement on how to manage California’s water resources. In late 2009, a water legislation package was the result. To implement this legislation, a gigantic 11 billion dollar water bond is expected to go before the voters in November of 2010. The LWVC at this minute is examining how we might provide objective information on the water bond’s complex issues that will confront the voters in November. We also hope that several local Leagues will sponsor educational forums on the water bond. As you can see, issues on water management will always be an important part of the League’s work.
In conclusion, I continue to be an active member of the League of Women Voters and credit the League with my education on many public issues, but particularly in the water management arena. On a final note, I took up tap dancing–a childhood dream of mine– after completing my League of Women Voters of San Francisco presidency in the 1980s, but, alas, nothing has come of that brief fling at show biz.
My first contact with the League came more than 40 years ago during the 1960s in New Jersey. As a suburban mother of young children, I was very interested in the local public schools, which were struggling with the problem of de facto segregation. I went to a League of Women Voters meeting because a friend told me it was a group of women interested in local issues. And indeed they were. It was a stimulating meeting and I was quickly put on a committee for which I was supposed to get some information from the school board and call and report to other members. I was given a list of our membership and went home eager to get started.
After several phone calls to school officials, made in the midst of diaper-changing and toddler monitoring, I managed to dig out the information and turned to my list to let the others know. Unfortunately, I discovered the list of members included Mrs. John Schwarz, Mrs. William Moss, and Mrs. Bernard Scarpetti, but none of the names I recognized. Where were the Barbara, Helen, and Leona I had met? I had no idea who was who. It took me a few days to work up my courage to call the dignified, white-haired local president to ask why no one was identified by her first name. “Oh, my dear” she told me. “Emily Post says a married woman should always be identified by her husband’s name, so we follow that. It’s the League Way.” Well, eventually I figured out who was who, and we continued our meetings and our struggle, but it wasn’t long before my husband took a job in another state. We moved, I went back to school, and it was more than 30 years before I went to another League meeting and discovered the group had changed with the times.
I attended my first meeting in San Francisco soon after moving here in the mid-1990s. A notice in the neighborhood weekly newspaper alerted me to a League meeting at a local church that would explain the ballot measures for the upcoming election. This was the first time I had encountered the strange California practice of asking voters to decide a dozen ballot measures or more at every election.
At the meeting Alyson Washburn, who was probably League president at the time, impressed me with her knowledge of the measures and of the local political situation. She also gave me a membership brochure and I was hooked. I went on to attend the small Downtown Group meetings to discuss issues the League was wrestling with such as the support systems for grandparents raising young children and services to foster children as they age out of the system at 18. The League took positions on both of these.
Eventually I joined the Education Committee, which was trying to assess the problems in San Francisco schools. I worked with Nancy and Bill Zinn, as well as, several other League members who were veterans of the League Study methods. We interviewed teachers, administrators, union leaders, and representatives of community groups. We organized a program meeting for members with the Acting Superintendent of Schools, the union president and others. When a new superintendent of schools was appointed, we had high hopes many of the problems would be handled well, perhaps even solved.
I don’t recall how I learned about the League but just knew about its reputation as one of non-biased political information. When it was time to vote I would often check the League’s positions on issues to expedite my information gathering as I was making my voting decisions.
My joining the League was motivated by my frustrations about how some of the elections were turning out. It often seems like the ads and voting mailers are meant to confuse and influence rather than inform and elucidate. I was seeking out honest, non-partisan voter information. Volunteering with the League allows me to contribute to a more informed voting population. I believe that if everyone participates, in an informed way, regardless of their affiliation or party, as an informed voter, and VOTES, our country would be in better shape. It is frustrating to witness how much dark money is influencing elections and used to dispense misinformation, and I wanted an outlet that would allow me to fight back against this disinformation and help other voters make informed decisions as well – not based on lies but facts.
I have been a member for over 2 years and serve on the League of Women Voters of San Francisco's Communications Committee.
I was first introduced to the League of Women Voters when I graduated high school. My town’s local chapter had awarded me a small scholarship for some of the activities I was involved with at the time. I sent my thank you note and then did not spend much more time thinking about the League as college and then my career soon became the focus of my attention.
I was reintroduced to the League a few years back. I realized that my job was all-consuming and wearing me thin. I did not have a moment free for a personal life, let alone time to give back to the community. I finally gained the courage to quit my job and start my own engineering consulting firm. At last I had control of my own schedule. I knew I wanted to be more involved in the San Francisco community.
There were many groups and organizations I was interested in but, after participating in many of them, I found that they were only networking organizations that when it came down to it, did not really do much. After my experience as a busy consultant, I understood the value of my time – I wanted to make the time I spent volunteering really meant something. That is when I remembered the League.
After exploring the League of Women Voters of San Francisco I found that the League does not just do something – the League does a lot! I had found my match. My first responsibility with the League was as the Bay Area Liaison. In this role, I was the San Francisco League representative of the Bay Area League, which dealt with greater Bay Area affairs, including transit, water, and environmental issues that cross city boundaries. We held forums with hundreds of attendees educating them on local issues such as Bay Delta water issues, climate change, zero waste programs, and water recycling.
I then took on the responsibility of producing Pro/Con Interviews each election cycle. In this role, I contacted representatives for and against each San Francisco ballot measure and set up informative interviews.The interviews were taped by San Francisco Government Television and aired on local access television and available on the League’s website prior to the election.
I appreciate how the League does not just tell you who to vote for or how to vote on an issue; they actually educate voters so they can think for themselves. Do not get me wrong, the League does take positions, but only after years of educated study and research. I also respect the tough topics the League has decided to tackle – for instance, redistricting in California and privatization (i.e. of our military) on the federal level.
For all of my efforts as a member of the League to educate voters, I myself have been so educated. I have learned about the inner workings of San Francisco government, the measures that have been passed over the years, and the groups that are actively pursuing change. I now have the confidence to make informed decisions and pro-actively participate in issues that affect my community.
I remember hearing of the League back when I was in high school as the National League of Women Voters used to do the Presidential debates. The idea of being neutral and fair has always appealed to me — it was my impression that the League as an organization was neutral on candidates and has valid positions on issues. My first interaction with the San Francisco League was being invited for a couple of years to the Women Who Could Be President event. At that time, it was a luncheon. At the second luncheon, an invitation to all was extended to join and volunteer, and I took them up on it! At first I volunteered to do Pro-Con discussions prior to elections and I assisted with some candidate forums. I didn’t attend any meetings until I became a Board member a few years later.
Membership and participation in the League has enabled me to see various sides of the issues and positions we take. The activities in which I have participated (mostly on the Voter Education side) have been incredibly interesting. My fellow members are a wonderful group! I’m most proud of the reach and respect we have in the community, given the limited resources available.
My role, for the past several election cycles, has been putting together candidate forums for elections of local, state and Federal offices within San Francisco. It’s been a great opportunity to work with candidates, collaborating organizations and the media to produce these forums. I’ve also helped with election monitoring for homeowners associations to raise funds for the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, which has been an interesting enterprise. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to serve on the Executive Committee as Secretary for the past two years. Besides the values of the League, I think the opportunities I’ve had to organize the candidate forums and work with our wonderful volunteers and collaborators have honed my organizational skills.
My wish for League of Women Voters of San Francisco is to see it grow. The more members/volunteers who participate, the more service we can render for the democratic process in San Francisco. I definitely see myself active in the League in five years!
As I look back on my years with the League of Women Voters I realize that there was a direct correlation between the hours I spent on projects and the friendships formed with the people I worked with. I got out of League what I put into it.
I first joined League in San Mateo County where I served on the board and worked on studies and action. In 1987 my husband and I moved from Burlingame to San Francisco and one of the first things I did was join the San Francisco League.
I was on the board when Charlene Smith was president, she of the purple hair which overnight changed people’s image of the League of Women Voters. It was Susan Sutherland who was president when we came up with the idea of a fundraising luncheon, named by Ann Walsh as Women Who Could be President. Out of the many hours spent on the luncheon from 1992 until 1999, fast friendships were formed.
I was honored to represent the League on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force for four-plus years, a position taken over by Kristin Chiu and now Allyson Washburn. Being “inside City Hall” was an eye-opening experience I recommend to all.
I joined the League of Women Voters of San Francisco in the summer of 2014. After being out of law school for a few years I was missing the civic extracurricular activities I used to be engaged in through school. I started looking into San Francisco commissions and committees with vacancies that needed support and then one of my mentors, a past President of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, recommended the organization and told me about the League’s work with the Sunshine Ordinance Taskforce. I had used resources created by the League to inform myself before past elections and knew membership in the League would be a great way to start giving back to my community. I have since been selected for the League’s Board of Directors as a Communications Committee co-chair and I have started to shadow the chair person of the Sunshine Ordinance Taskforce, a League of Women Voters of San Francisco member, to transition into her seat after her term. I am very excited about all of the opportunities I have gained to give back to the City of San Francisco.
For as long as I can remember, I have always craved knowledge, wanted to understand the world around me, and find a way to be a part of positive change. Some of my favorite courses in my undergraduate degree touched on social change and social inequities on both a national and international scale. I had always been interested in political issues but my International Affairs degree really opened my eyes to the world around me. After some very enlightening courses, I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done – not just on a national or international level, but here in our backyards. I did my graduate work in Education and Sociology and completed a certificate in teaching with the intention of having education be a center part of the work that I do. Specifically, moving to San Francisco from Atlanta, Georgia four years ago, I wanted to make sure to give back and be a part of the local community. I began by registering to vote, making sure to stay up-to-date on local issues, and, of course, voting! The first time I voted in California, I almost cried with enthusiasm. You would be so shocked and surprised by the amount of voting barriers one faces in Georgia – short hours, lack of information about ballot measures, far commutes to voting sites, identification barriers, and more. San Francisco made it so convenient and easy to vote that I vowed to vote in every election. And, when a friend asked me to join the League of Women Voters of San Francisco – of course I said yes! It is a cause that I believe in wholeheartedly. I am so grateful that I found the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and that I am able to volunteer my time and energy serving on the Board as Co-Chair of the Communications Committee.
In 1994, I took early retirement (a special program offered unexpectedly), so hadn’t contemplated what I would do with my time when I retired from the UCSF library, where I had been Head of Special Collections and University Archivist for almost 30 years. Consequently, I spent the next couple of years adjusting to living on my own time. Ultimately, missing some of the structure that goes with a job, I took a part-time position as a reference archivist with the Bank of America. The Archives were then at Front and Broadway, near the Embarcadero.
Alas, I cannot remember what led me to the League. They still had unit meetings then – in different neighborhoods and one downtown at headquarters. The latter was not far from the Archives, and met at 6 PM, which was convenient for me to get there after work. That’s where I went (in 1999, as I recall) to become acquainted with the activities and philosophy of the League, and meet the San Francisco members and officers.
There, fortunately, I met Adele Fasick, and learned that not only did she live not far from me, but that she was a retired librarian (actually former Dean of the Library School at the University of Toronto) as well! So we developed our friendship going to the meetings and then riding home together.
Adele and I got to know Ann Anderson, who was Chairing the Education Study Committee at that time. We shanghaied my husband, Bill (who had had considerable experience with the SF School District), and with one other member, Kay Blalock, met at Ann’s home at Lake Merced for several years. Ann also volunteered at the Achenbach Library in the Legion of Honor, and got me to work there too! Alas, solutions to the problems of the School District were elusive, and during our period of study a new Superintendent was brought in. Consequently, we felt we would have to wait for some time after she arrived and put her own imprint on the district before we could again look at the district. And things changed…. Ann moved up to Oakmont in Petaluma and the other member of the committee became incapacitated, so the group disbanded.
Adele and I also worked together on the Candidate Forums that were held in the Sunset District for a number of years – always a good way to get a look at the candidates and evaluate their responses to pointed questions! At some point, I took on being timekeeper for the tapings of issue forums to be broadcast on the public service channel, Access Ch. 29, now defunct, sadly. Over the years, I filled in various other spots – recorder for the annual meeting, hostess at the Women Who Could be President reception, participant in a workshop offered by the National League on membership, among other things. At some point I was asked to host a membership meeting, which I enjoyed doing, and so, encouraged by Marilyn Campbell, then chair, joined the Membership Committee. I am co-chair today, with Alex Volberding, whose enthusiasm and ideas (continuing Marilyn’s energy and with her support!) should be a grand impetus to increasing the number of members and encouraging their participation in League activities.
All of these activities allowed me to meet the officers and members, and get to understand the organization in its various guises – a totally satisfying experience that I can recommend for any one. It seems to me that to join an organization and then not participate in its activities eliminates the opportunity to learn and support it – not to mention getting to know a lot of interesting people, rewards which more than justify the effort involved!