Archives for May 2015

LWVMA Celebrates 95th Anniversary, Congratulated by Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito

On May 27, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts celebrated its 95th anniversary–marking 95 years that the League has been at the forefront of Making Democracy Work! 

We were honored that Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack joined us for our birthday celebration on Sunday, May 3 to share her vision for the Commonwealth’s transportation system.

And thank you to Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito for recognizing this important occasion.

Since its founding in 1920, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has consistently worked to increase citizen participation and civic education as a necessary part of democratic government. LWVMA has provided the citizens of the Commonwealth with nonpartisan, balanced information on candidates, election issues, and public policy matters, encouraging voter registration, informed voting, and an understanding of government.  We have striven to achieve legislation that promotes the public interest, and we have worked to be a force for citizens and a voice for change.

To our members and supporters:  Thank you for helping us Make Democracy Work for 95 years!

Massachusetts League of Women Voters Elects Co-Presidents, Officers, and Directors

BOSTON—Anne Borg of Newton and Jean Cherdack of Ashfield have been elected co-presidents of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts for the next two years.

Borg is a member of the Newton League, and Cherdack is a member of the Northampton Area League.  They were elected at the state League’s recent convention in West Springfield.

The other state League officers and their local Leagues are Marlene O’Brien, Wellesley, first vice president; Dee Ortner, Concord-Carlisle, second vice president; Karen Price, Needham, third vice president; Shelley Drowns, Waltham, secretary; and Andrea Kozinetz, Newton, treasurer.

Elected as LWVMA directors are Mary Ann Ashton of Acton Area, Roslyn Broch of Williamstown, Nancy Brumback of Sudbury, Melisa Hollenback of Shrewsbury, Carole Pelchat of Greater Haverill, Terry Yoffie of Newton, and Launa Zimmaro of Concord-Carlisle.

The convention also adopted plans for a major voter registration and voter turnout effort centered on the 2016 election and for a strong program promoting civic education and civic engagement

The state League’s other priorities over the coming two years will be the issues of money in politics, climate change and the environment, and addressing income inequality.

The LWV of Massachusetts includes 45 local Leagues across the state.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Additional information is available at


Make Public Records Public

Please contact your representative AND your senator NOW and urge them to vote for public records reform, emphasizing that H.3665 (rewrite of H.2772) is essential for Massachusetts. This bill updates our Public Records access laws for the first time since the 1970s.

The LWV of Massachusetts, as a member of the Mass Freedom of Information Coalition (MassFOIA), has worked hard and was thrilled when the Joint Committee on State Administration and Oversight released the bill favorably from committee with modest changes. This bill is currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Now the Mass Municipal Association is trying to generate massive opposition to the bill, and we need your help in letting our legislators know that concerned citizens, the news media and others seeking public records have a right to them.

Talking points:

  • Massachusetts is ranked 46th out of the 50 states for lack of access to public records that you the taxpayer already paid to have created.
  • One state agency actually just won the Golden Padlock award for being the most secretive public agency in the entire USA. They beat out the US Defense department!
  • There are no teeth to the current law, and thus agencies routinely ignore requests or charge outrageous fees. This bill adds the teeth already used in 46 other states, i.e. allowing courts to award attorney’s fees when an agency is found to have violated the law.
  • This is NOT an un-funded mandate, contrary to what is asserted by bureaucrats that want to maintain secrecy. Reasonable fees can be charged under the new bill and reasonable times to fulfill requests are allowed.
  • Transparent government is essential to a functioning democracy. This bill promotes making records electronic and available on-line. It also mandates that an agency have a “records access officer” so that those making inquiries know to whom to speak and don’t get the run around.
  • The bill contains provisions to assure that gadflies and inordinately large volume requests can be handled separately.

For more information, see this article from the July 19 Boston Globe.

LWVMA Elects Borg and Cherdack As Co-Presidents for 2015-2017

Members of Leagues around the state, gathered in West Springfield for the 2015 LWVMA Convention, elected Anne Borg of the Newton League and Jean Cherdack of the Northampton Area League as co-presidents of the state League for the next two years.  Anne has been co-president and Jean has been a director for the past two years.

The Convention also approved a two-year state study of charter schools with the aim of developing a position on this subject to be presented to the 2017 Convention for approval.  The LWVMA board will appoint a committee to determine the scope of the study and to develop information and consensus questions.  Any League member interested in serving on that committee can contact Anne Borg.

The other officers elected at the May 15-16 convention are Marlene O’Brien of Wellesley, first vice president; Dee Ortner of Concord-Carlisle, second vice president; Karen Price of Needham, third vice president; Shelley Drowns of Waltham, secretary; and Andrea Kozinetz of Newton, treasurer.

Elected as LWVMA directors are Mary Ann Ashton of Acton Area, Roslyn Broch of Williamstown, Nancy Brumback of Sudbury, Melisa Hollenback of Shrewsbury, Carole Pelchat of Greater Haverill, Terry Yoffie of Newton, and Launa Zimmaro of Concord-Carlisle.

Lee Bona of the Worcester Area League was elected chair of the nominating committee, and the off-board members of that committee are Sandra Daly of Grafton and Lynn Wolbarst of Sharon-Stoughton.

Jo-Ann Berry of Acton Area received the Above and Beyond Award for her voter service and moderator work, and Karen Price of Needham received the 110% Award for her work on the board in membership and other areas.

The Convention also gave thanks and a standing ovation to the two women leaving the board, co-president Marilyn Peterson of Acton Area and director Becky Shannon of Northampton.

As action items for the coming two years, the Convention approved a strong voter registration, information and education program centered on the 2016 election; development of an action plan on civic education and engagement; and extension of a committee to review and report on election-related technology.

LWVMA action priorities for the biennium will be improving elections and voter turnout; civic education and engagement; money and politics; climate change and the environment; and addressing income inequality.

The Convention welcomed members of the newly-formed Springfield unit of the Northampton Area League, who are working actively in voter activities in Springfield and who hope to eventually form an independent League in that city.

Rosalee Keech, an LWVUS director and the LWVUS Observer to the United Nations, detailed her experiences in both those areas as the Friday evening speaker.  Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, was Saturday’s speaker.  Ms. Barajas-Román works to fund programs improving the lives of girls and women in that region, and she discussed that work and how the League might help.

League Asks Gov. Baker to Amend Executive Order on Regulations

LWVMA has asked Governor Charlie Baker to revise his Executive Order #562, which requires all agencies within the Executive department to review every regulation under their jurisdiction.

The League, in a letter, urged the Governor to require that agencies hold public hearings and provide for public comment periods before regulations are changed.  The letter noted that the League supports and encourages regular and objective reviews of state regulations to assure that they are clear, relevant and effective in accomplishing their intended results.

The League does question the provision in the Executive Order that agencies should determine that a regulation “does not exceed federal requirements.”  We feel that Massachusetts has been a pioneer in developing regulations, particularly in the areas of consumer and environmental protection, which have served as models for other states and for federal regulations.  A blanket prohibition on exceeding federal requirements for state regulations could have a serious impact in important areas.

The Executive Order also requires that all regulations that have not been reviewed automatically sunset on March 31, 2016.  Since we feel strongly that the review process should include public hearings and public comment, and since many of the state’s regulations cover complex issues and a review should be thorough and thoughtful, it may be extremely difficult for agencies to carry out a review of all regulations in a public manner by that deadline, and necessary regulations should not be eliminated simply because of time constraints on the process.

The League urges its members and the public to contact Governor Baker and request that the review of regulations be public and open, and that our states’ regulations not be unnecessarily limited by the scope of federal regulations.

You can read the League’s letter to the Governor here.

You can read Executive Order # 562 here.

LWVMA Announces Winners of “There Oughta Be a Law” Student Video Contest

May 8, 2015 / Boston, MA – The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) today announced the three winners of its “There Oughta Be a Law” Student Video Contest.

For its second annual student video contest, the League invited Massachusetts high school students to create two-minute videos suggesting new laws to help keep Massachusetts great.  The contest aimed to heighten civic awareness among high school students, provide an opportunity for them to speak out about the topics that are important to them, and possibly help shape the legislative agenda. The winners will receive awards of $1,000 (first place); $500 (second place); and $250 (third place).

The three winning videos are:

First Place: “Violation of Gun Control,” by Benjamin Andersson Grotnes (with Anne Helmen, Julia Hines Grape, and Anniken Birkhaug), Maynard High School, Maynard

Second Place: “Statutory Rape,” by Susanita Carvajal (with Ezra Kaim, Jordan Chase, Matt Friedrich, and Jill Stockley), Longmeadow High School, Longmeadow

Third Place:  “The Risks of Confidentiality,” by Alexa Lyons (of Newton), The Winsor School, Boston

The winning videos were selected from a pool of entries submitted from across the state—from western Massachusetts to the Cape and Islands—that touched on a wide variety of topics, including suicide prevention programs, genetically modified organisms, public art, clean energy, education, recycling, satellite dishes, driving laws, and voter registration. The Judging Committee selected the winning submissions based on their clear and compelling messages, memorable content and delivery, and creativity.  The positions taken in the videos do not necessarily reflect the positions of the League of Women Voters.

“We were extremely pleased that, for a second year, we received so many thoughtful and creative videos on such a wide range of topics,” said LWVMA Executive Director Meryl Kessler. “But it is also fascinating that the three winning videos all address different aspects of public health and safety.”

“We are proud that the League of Women Voters has been able to provide young people across Massachusetts with a platform to share their concerns as well as their solutions,” said Anne Borg, co-president of LWVMA. “It is inspiring to see the range and quality of the students’ work.”

In addition to the individual prizes, Durfee High School in Fall River will receive a special prize of $250 to recognize the exceptional number of high quality videos submitted to the contest by Durfee students.  This is the second year in a row that Durfee High School has been so recognized.

The contest was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Citizen Education Fund, which supports programs designed to encourage the active and informed participation of citizens in democracy and increase understanding of public policy issues. An award ceremony will be scheduled for later this month.

MA Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack Shares Vision, Passion at LWVMA’s 95th Birthday Celebration

Speaking to a packed room at LWVMA’s 95th birthday celebration on Sunday, May 3, 2015, MA Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack provided her vision for the Commonwealth’s transportation  system, emphasizing that any discussion about transportation should begin by building a consensus on goals before considering resources.  Secretary Pollack, who opened her remarks by highlighting the value of civic engagement and her high regard for organizations like the League, also underscored the necessity of approaching transportation decision making from a long-term perspective and by recognizing that transportation issues are embedded in the larger questions of where people live, where they work, and what services they need to access.  She also discussed the need to restructure the process of approving transportation projects so that we do not automatically fund projects that have been waiting in the pipeline for years and sometimes decades, regardless of their current relevance.

Secretary Pollack, who was appointed by Governor Charlie Baker on January 13, has had a long career researching, writing, and advising about transportation–as well as the intersection of transportation with a variety of other issues, including equity, economic opportunity, housing and development, and the environment. She previously worked on transportation policy, finance and equity as Associate Director for Research at the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University since 2005; has provided over a decade of strategic consulting on transportation issues to the public and private sectors; and had a distinguished career at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston.

LWVMA is extremely  grateful to Nancy Beeuwkes of LWV Concord-Carlisle and her husband Reinier for graciously hosting the event.