Forward to February 1999 DC Voter Back to League of Women Voters main page Back to December 1998 DC Voter
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Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The Rights of the Child
|Making Democracy Work/D.C.
Coalition for DC Votings Rights in Congress
National Program/Meeting Report
Medicare Meeting Summary by Kathy Schmidt
LWV/The National Capital Area
DC Economic Summit
Gender Equity and Social Security
HAPPY NEW YEAR 1999!
As newly elected D.C. officials take office, LWVDC adopts local program for 1999-2001. By attending your unit meeting this month you can help to set policy and priorities for the next two years. We need to fill vacancies in the following areas of oversight: Land Use/Urban Planning, Transportation/Air Quality, Housing, and Health Care. Are you interested? Give me a call at 202/347-3020. We also need volunteers to take advantage of our membership opportunities for video training at DCTV. You can get our message out on Cable!
December 1998 marked the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Along with honorees of 20 other local groups, the UNA/NCA honored our own Hilda Mason for her human rights work at their Community Awards Luncheon at the Cannon House Office Building on December 10. The following tribute was included in the program:
The D. C. League of Women Voters honors Council member Hilda Howland Mason for her years spent working to achieve the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights here in the nation's capital. She has occupied a range of positions from elementary school teacher to member of the City Council, where she served for over twenty years. Her contributions to achieving civil rights for all stands out. At a time when African-Americans in the District of Columbia could not be served at all lunch counters and restaurant, when they could not try on clothing in many department stores, when hospital patients as well as school children were segregated by race, Hilda Mason and her husband Charlie were on the picket lines. We salute you, whom we know as "Grandmother of the World," for all you have done to make the District of Columbia a better place for all.
We continue our struggle for full voting rights. We joined the amicus brief to support the ACLU lawsuit filed November 30 to demand the publication of all of our November election results. As supporters of the Coalition for D.C. Representation in Congress, we are looking for members and friends to host "tea panties" in their homes to raise spirits and funds for the effort. You can help by inviting friends to your home for discussion and refreshments; the Coalition will provide an inspiring speaker. Call 202/347-3020 to host.
Every month we list contributions to the League's General Fund and to the Education Fund, but this month I wanted to say a special thanks. This Fall's member finance drive was very successful. We raised approximately $2,300 for the General Fund exceeding our budgeted goal of $1,500. The Education Fund received $2,050. which puts us half way to our goal of $4,000. Contributions to the Ed Fund are tax- deductible and we appreciate any help our members and their friends can give. Roses to Liz Martin who coordinated the appeal.
Jan 6 (Wed) 10:00, LWVDC Board Meeting, LWVUS,
1730 M Street, NW
Unit Calendar: January 1999
Chevy Chase, call for location Sue Whitman, 202/347-3020, Jan 20 (Wed)
January units consider local program. See below.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The Rights of the Child
November units focused on the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights addressed the issue December 4, 1998, in Gaston Hall of Georgetown University. The symposium was sponsored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill. This was the first in a series of lectures in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt and her contribution to human rights. Mrs. Clinton credited Mrs. Roosevelt with having made the concept of human rights a household term. She reminded the audience that Mrs. Roosevelt had chaired the commission on human rights from 1946 through 1948, when the declaration was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Only the United Sates and Somalia, Mrs. Clinton pointed out, have not ratified the 1989 convention of the Rights of the Child. Mrs. Clinton said that human rights are not granted: they are inherent. She emphasized that the concept is universal, not just Western.
While an increased life expectancy and better health conditions worldwide argue that life for children has improved, Mrs. Clinton enumerated facts which indicate that there is much left to do. There is a wide discrepancy between lives of children born to wealthy parents and those born to poor parents. Millions of children have died of malnutrition. Many places in the world lack schools. Child labor still exists. Child prostitution is accepted in too many countries. Conscription of young boys continues. Orphans of wars are common. Street children are abused by authorities at least in Bulgaria, Brazil, and Mongolia. The Ukraine is one place where trafficking in young girls is condoned.
Her recommendations were that, first, the United States pay its debt to the United Nations and, second, the Senate ratify the convention of The Rights of the Child. Only with health care for everyone, free and open education, strengthened families, and a decrease in violence can our children begin to feel safe and secure. A panel discussion followed. Kathy Schmidt
Welcome new members: Donna Allen, Jane Bergen, Barbara Bramble, Catherine Chilman, Mildred Crary, Merle Eaton, Alice Fusillo, John Maher, Susan Rao (transferred from Raleigh, already active in NE Unit), Leah Resnick, Betty Rosenberg, Mary Young
Thanks to donors: Emily Curtis, Evelyn Falkowski, Deborah Green, Joan & Robert Kocher, Voyce Mack, Elizabeth Martin, Louise Steele, Genevieve and Otto Ungar.
Lively Open House... Thanks to guitarists Rudy Arredondo (UNA board member) and Mamuka Tseriteli for playing at our November 15 open house and to League members and friends for abundant food and cheerful conversation.
Welcome back to: Philip Blair, Mary Pat Rowan & Harriet Blair Rowan of NE, Mary Crisp, Debbie Goldman, Cora Grannis, Annette Kane (Nat'l Council of Catholic Women), Frances Lewine, Ann Profozich (Director, Member Service, LWVUS), Noel Train, Anne Weinberg.
Oops! In December, we inadvertently left out the name of one of our stalwart members who helps with the voter mailing. We would like to thank Ethel Cooper for being so reliable.
Office needs: Thanks to members who offered rugs and lamps. We now need folding chairs, which will be stored in our closet for overflow meetings.
The League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia is saving sales tapes from Safeway and Giant stores. We shall contribute them to a D.C. Public School for computers or other education equipment. Please send your tapes to the LWVDC office or bring them to your unit meeting.
The Education Committee announces discussion topics for future regular committee meetings (see table). Previous discussion topics included: November: Charter schools, Betty Nyangoni; December: Vouchers, Kathy Schmidt (see below).
Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month, 10:00 a.m. at the LWVDC headquarters, 1234 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Meetings are open. Please join us for spirited discussions. Kathy Schmidt and Betty Nyangoni, Chair and Co-chair
U.N. Update Looking Ahead. The I.R. Committee is preparing to present Unit Meetings in April on More Treaties in Trouble as follow-up to our November meetings on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In November, we also discussed the unratified (by the U.S.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (See President Murphy's letter and Kathy Schmidt's report on other commemorations of the Declaration anniversary). In April, we will discuss another endangered treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), under negotiation since the Eisenhower Administration and finally signed by President Clinton at the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996. April Units will also look at the status of our arrears to the U.N. and the recently negotiated Statute of an International Criminal Court, which failed to gain U.S. acceptance in Rome last June.
Arms Control Scholar to Meet with Committee Wednesday, Jan. 13. In preparation for the April Units, League members are invited to join the committee when it meets with Dr. Nancy Gallagher, Scholar-in-Residence at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), to discuss the CTB treaty and the pending U.S. ratification decision (Wednesday, January 13, Sumner School, 17th and M Streets NW, Room G3, noon-2 p.m. brown bag). Prior to accepting her appointment at ACDA, Dr. Gallagher served on the Faculty at Wesleyan University; her book The Politics of Verification, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, will be in bookstores this winter. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from an expert why this treaty, which the League of Women Voters supports, should receive Senate support as promptly as possible.
Great Decisions. In January, the I.R. Committee will again take part in the annual eight-part discussion program Great Decisions. Sponsored by the foreign Policy Association, Great Decisions enables groups across the country to study and discuss eight stimulating foreign affairs topics by providing an authoritative briefing book (expected cost $10). WETA TV will broadcast half-hour programs relating to the series every Friday at 3 p.m., beginning January 15. This year, the topics will focus on the information age, the international financial crisis, Japan, weapons of mass destruction, Central Asia, NATO after expansion, Latin America, and the role of the U.S. in the U.N. We welcome new foreign policy buffs. If interested in joining the LWV group, come to our first meeting on Wednesday, January 27, from noon-2 p.m in the Rosalie Goodman Room, LWVUS, 1730 M Street NW. To register and order the book, call Sheila Keeny at 202/347-3020. Sheila Keeny, Chair
Educational Vouchers: Report of Education Committee Meeting, December 10, 1998
The following committee report is not an endorsement; it is for your information. The League of Women Voters of the United States is on record as opposed to vouchers: the position cited is "equal access to education," and the 1978 convention voted against a credit for education.
The League of Women Voters of the United States has a position in support of equal access to education; therefore, it is opposed to school vouchers. In 1978 the national convention actually voted to oppose tuition credit. The following article is strictly for your information.
Educational vouchers are not to be confused with charter schools nor with school choice. Choice allows enrollment within city, local, or state public schools at no expense to the parent nor sending district. Educational vouchers provide money for private education. The concept originated with Milton Friedman, economist. It was first used by Virginia after Brown vs. The Board of Education but has become widely debated only since the Contract with America. In 1995 there were 7,200 students in privately, not publicly, funded programs. Although court supported for use in non- sectarian schools, application of the plan for use in religious schools was denied in August by the judicial system in Maine.
Vouchers are extremely important in the District of Columbia. When schools opened a year ago September, Congress proposed that the District of Columbia Public Schools make available a $3200 voucher for each student. As the DC Voter noted, that was far less than tuition at the private schools in the area. In February last year House Majority Leader Dick Armey said that his party would "push school choice options [vouchers] for...D. C." Only 2.5% of DCPS children could have benefited.
Although ballot initiatives have been tried and defeated in Oregon, California, and Colorado and the idea has been submitted but defeated in the legislature of New Jersey Milwaukee, Wisconsin since 1990/91 has employed vouchers. The state pays $2,500 of tuition for 1,000 students in non-sectarian, city schools which are exempted from providing services to special education students. The history of the original 17 participating schools is mixed. (Massachusetts is trying a state funded choice program, which has had to be modified because of initial disastrous effects on the sending districts.) Studies have been carried out here in the U.S. and abroad. Users tend to be from families which are better educated, more active in their children's education, and financially better off. Vouchers have increased socioeconomic and racial segregation. Costs have exceeded the non-voucher education. Achievement for the student has been only slightly or not at all improved, but there have been some positive results. Arguments in favor of vouchers are parental choice, the success of the G.I. bill, orderly classrooms with codes of behavior favorable to families' preference, and benefits to the gifted child. Arguments against are more numerous. Equity is not addressed. The marketplace is not appropriate for education. The idea is actually a redistribution of choices. The result is fewer dollars for poor students unable to pay the difference for private schools. Wealthy parents of current private school students are subsidized. Payers are supporting non-public entities without accountability. There is an erosion of community ties. Racial integration is evaded. Public schools are left with special education students, those who have English as a second language, slower learners, and less community involved parents. It is part of the effort to dismantle entitlements.
Making Democracy Work/D.C. Congressional Representation
The organizing effort continues, as Kathy Schmidt reports below concerning the Coalition. Based on my experience in the previous campaign so long ago and the records of the D.C League which I have maintained, I have pulled together factual material which could be used in an information kit. This includes a fact sheet, a set of questions and answers and a chronology. This draft material was submitted for review by members of the Coalition steering committee attending a December meeting (see Kathy's report). Coralie Farlee has "field tested" the fact sheet during Elderhostel travel. As of this writing (in December) She is helping me revise the draft material and we will account for comments received from others. I would appreciate readers letting me know about questions they receive when engaged in discussion on this topic so that additional answers may be prepared as needed. As time progresses, and the D.C. issue receives more visibility, I would also like to have copies of articles or editorials which you may receive from friends. This will be contributed to the coalition's data base. Barbara Yeomans, 3rd Vice-Pres. (Nat'l Program)
The steering committee has held several telephone conference calls and held the second open meeting, Wednesday, December 2, in the Lincoln Room of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Over 40 organizations currently are willing to consider joining the coalition. At present grant proposals have been submitted to several foundations. As soon as funds are received, a staff coordinator will be hired. In February the plan is for 100 residents to hold "tea parties" to distribute information about the coalition and the law suit, ask for signatures on petitions, and ask for contributions to fund the work of the coalition. Until a staff is in place, any LWVDC members interested in supporting the effort, please contact Kathy Schmidt, 202/347-3020.
National Program/Meeting Report: All-Member Meeting on the Future of Medicare
The substance of the meeting is being reported by Kathy Schmidt, note-taker par excellence. I introduce her report with a short review of the LWVUS/EF project which enabled us to have a meeting. As indicated in earlier issues, LWVUS/EF and Kaiser Family Foundation sponsored the overall project, entailing public meetings in 10 cities, 11 focus groups, and over 500 community dialogues. These were in addition to all-member meetings such as our own. Results will be compiled and submitted to the Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare which in turn is scheduled to release its report in March 1999. All matters Medicare are on the table.
We were fortunate to have with us the LWVUS/EF Assistant Project Manager for Community Dialogue, Laura Blaisdell. She arranged for each participant to have a special information kit. It included the fact sheets included with the December DC VOTER, special pamphlets and the membership of the Bipartisan Commission. Laura indicated that, in early February, LWVUS expects to make its report to the Commission public. You may obtain a copy from National by contacting Laura (202/429-1965). You also may consult the LWVUS web page ( http://www.lwv.org ). Additionally, members may track the business of the Bipartisan Commission via the Internet ( http://medicare.commission.gov.html ). The Kaiser Family Foundation also has a web site ( http://www.KFF.org ). Through it one can obtain a useful document called "Medicare at a Glance."
I take this opportunity to thank Laura and LWV with KFF for the fine material which they produced for discussion leaders, such as myself. I also had the benefit of reviewing videotapes of the public meetings held around the country. They were fascinating.
We now turn to Kathy's report. For the record I note that this was not a consensus meeting; participants filled out individual questionnaires. But a certain sense of the group did emerge. Barbara Yeomans, 3rd Vice-Pres. (Nat'l Program)
Meeting Summary by Kathy Schmidt
More than a dozen members participated. A video prepared by the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation introduced the subject. Ms. Yeomans also had selected portions of videos made at regional symposia which had been sponsored by the League. She then reviewed the material that had been distributed in the December DC Voter and drew on material prepared by KFF and LWVUS/EF.
Four issues were addressed: cutting federal expenditures, raising additional funds, expanding benefits, and restructuring medicare. The general view was that payments to providers doctors, hospitals, therapists, etc. had already been cut down to the minimum acceptable level: further cuts might well impair service. While it was agreed that fraud and abuse must continue to be prosecuted, the forms sent to Medicare recipients are so complex that they are intimidating and may be too difficult for many in the public to use. Increasing the age at which citizens might become eligible for Medicare received general support: Americans are living longer; but because Afro- Americans have a shorter life expectancy than do Caucasians, the question of equity arose. Finally, managed care was accepted as a given but with many reservations. Why should alternative medicines not be included?
When 95% of subsequent test only confirm the original, why are second tests for the same condition so routine? How are rural areas to be served if managed care were to become a requirement of Medicare? Will prescription drugs and new medical techniques be made available to all Medicare patients? Do for profit and non-profit managed care organizations provide comparable services? Once a person is enrolled in a managed care group, may he easily change to another plan or group?
Options currently under consideration include raising taxes: there was strong support for universal health care; however, fear of increased payments in the future for those with fixed incomes was voiced. Another option is medical savings accounts as a supplement to Medicare. At the present time there are pilot projects in several regions. Finally, the proposal that Medicare provide a fixed amount for each individual to use in purchasing his own health insurance ("defined contribution" like a voucher) received scant support.
The League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia has filed a friend of the court brief in a law suit which challenges the denial by Congress of the right for D. C. Board of Elections to count and certify the vote count on Initiative 59. The American Civil Liberties Union instituted the suit. As Local Program Chair Ms. Anna Marsh polled the executive committee, requested a copy of the brief, and consulted with the League of Women Voters of the United States before recommending that we join the suit. Initiative 59 appeared on the November 3 ballot. It would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician. The subject of legalization is not a part of the amicus brief.
President: Naomi Glass, 202/686-0124. Editor: Forest Williams.
Transportation/Land-Use. The Board voted to join the Washington Regional Network (WRN) and affiliate with the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). WRN analyzes and promulgates information concerning transportation and land use development throughout the region. While related to WRN, CSG is an advocacy group; affiliation (as opposed to joining) will assure that we will receive up-to-date information but will not be committed to positions we have not reached through the normal League process. To the local Leagues that provided opinions and recommendations, thank you for your help.
New NCA Award. NCA will institute, in 1999, a biannual award to a member League for outstanding work on a matter of regional, as well as local interest. Named for Madeline Nauman, an NCA founder, the award will first be bestowed at the NCA Convention, May 8, 1999. A committee chaired by NCA's Interleague Co-Coordinator Mary Elizabeth Gordon, is drafting award rules and procedures.
Water Resources. The Water Resources Committee had an exceptionally successful meeting on November 9 with public officials from the Fairfax County Water Authority, the Washington Aqueduct, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority the organizations that control over 90% of the water in the area. Such a meeting may never have occurred before, and it pleased all concerned. Questions revolved around such subjects as conservation, new water sources, leakage, and water reclamation. Watch for local league meetings on regional water resources in early 1999.
Membership Roundtable. As an outgrowth of our November Talkout on membership, the NCA Board voted to establish and sponsor a continuing dialog among member Leagues' membership committees. The Membership Roundtable, which is being organized by Board Member Forest Williams, will meet regularly to discuss strategies for enrolling, educating, and involving new members.
Open Invitation. Boards of Directors and Nominating Committees responsible for finding NCA liaisons might suggest to potential candidates that they visit an NCA Board Meeting for first-hand exposure. All League members are welcome.
Dear League Member,
You are being asked to come to units. If unable to attend a meeting please write, fax and/or call LWVDC office, by January 4, with ways in which our local program can continue to be its primary vehicle for developing positions, setting priorities and taking action.
Before you attend the Local Program Planning Unit Meeting, read the contained information. Consider if the position should be: Retained or dropped or restudied.
When considering new program items, decide if:
Please take time to contribute to the process. Your choice will guide your action and interest in government issues.
Issues for League consideration can be any burning item, such as: Economic and Fiscal Development of the District of Columbia, Review Home Rule Charter, Why Are We Buying Water?, Public Education: Why Don't More People Vote?, or Increasing Public Transportation Use.
Best wishes for a thoughtful action-packed new year. Anna Marsh
In the spirit of neighborliness and making a difference in our community, the World Bank provided the venue for the November 12 meeting on "The Economic Resurgence of Washington, D.C." (too late to report for our November DC Voter deadline.) It was a rousing occasion, with more than 1000 registered to attend. An over-flow auditorium had to be employed. A set of the program material is on file at the office.
The focus was the results of working groups to guide development of a new economic development strategy, with the private sector being key. While D.C. may have a budgetary surplus at present, future revenues may not be adequate. The stimulus expected by the incentives adopted in 1997 may not have the desired full effect.
The program was divided into meetings of crosscutting policy working groups and industry networks and a plenary session. The groups were:
At the plenary, Mayor Barry sent greetings by videotape (he was outside the U.S.). Alice Rivlin, Chair of the Control Board, welcomed the participants. Others on the program were: Mayor-elect Williams; Jacob Lew, Director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget; Richard Monteilh, Director, D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development; Councilmember (Economic Committee Chair) Charlene Drew Jarvis; Marie Johns, President & CEO, Bell-Atlantic/DC; William Edwards, Mid-Atlantic Area Director, Hilton Hotels; John Imparato, Relocation Coordinator, U.S. Department of the Navy; Donald Hense, Executive Director, Friendship House; Archie Prioleau, President, Foundation for Educational innovation/DC Link and Learn; and Camille Barnett, Chief Management Officer of the District.
I found it hard to determine exactly what the overarching "strategy" was. Per the conference document, the strategy seems to comprise achieving 40 concrete actions, grouped within the three strategic policy areas and with an additional element, implementation, related to underpinning actions by the government in management and leadership, pursuit of a citywide economic development plan, budget coordination and regulatory streamlining, and follow-up oversight of the 40 actions.
The individual actions are quite focused and some were already underway. To give you a taste, here are some: No. 11 Increase capital availability for community-based businesses; No. 15 Expand the Role of UDC to support industry by expanding Associate Degree programs to complement the existing four-year curriculum, No. 26 Develop "north of Massachusetts Avenue" from the new convention center to Union Station (NOMA) for mixed-use information technology, communication media, arts and entertainment as well as housing; and No. 31 Use expansion of the Navy Yard, entailing 5000 jobs, to leverage development in Southwest.
There seem to be certain shortcomings in the view of some. All the individual planned actions are laudable but I did not hear speakers address correlation with the existing comprehensive plan for the city, which would seem appropriate for a "strategic" plan. Mr. Pyatt reported in the Washington Post (November 16) his view that the announced plan, while a beginning, "...fails to establish what should be the District's priority in economic development: a comprehensive plan to revitalize neglected neighborhoods across the city...."
Regardless of what difficulties might need to be addressed, it was great to experience the enthusiasm generated by the Conference and the "can do, will do, and does do" kind of mentality which may be taking hold. Barbara Yeomans, for Anna Marsh, DC Affairs Committee
Local Program Is Decided in January. Make your ideas known.
Look for a report in February's Voter on November's Brown Bag Discussion on Voting Patterns with Curtis Gans and Dr. Ron Walters
As we go to press, we just learned about a satellite TV conference on women's retirement and gender equity in Social Security. It will air on Saturday, January 23, 1999, 12:00 - 4:00 p,m. EST). It is organized by a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, Americans Discuss Social Security, funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. LWVUS is cosponsoring. For details, call the D.C. League office.
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