Report from LWVWI Annual Meeting, June 2017
This year’s state League annual meeting, held in Green Bay, was attended by eleven Dane County League members, not including LWVWI President, Debra Cronmiller, and LWVWI staff, Andrea Kaminski, Erin Grunze, and Alexandra Graff, who belong to our League. Mary Anglim, Janine Edwards, Kathy Fullin, Helen Horn, Paul Lindquist, Consuelo Lopez-Springfield, Ralph Peterson, Melanie Ramey, Ellen Rosborough, Ingrid Rothe, and Brook Soltvedt attended. The theme was Safeguarding Democracy: Civility, Equity & Community.
During registration, breakfast, and during breaks, members of the Tech Team staffed a table to share information about tech challenges and solutions. Erin Grunze (LWVWI staff) helped people install the Voices call to action app on their phones and Mary Jo McDonald (LWV-MC) demonstrated the equipment used to do online voter registration at naturalization ceremonies and high school registration events. Teri Lane (LWV-MC) and Brook Soltvedt answered questions and took requests for more specific assistance or training materials that will be provided one-on-one over the summer.
After dinner we heard from UWGB history professor Harvey J. Kaye on the radical ideals of “the founders” from Thomas Paine to FDR, the subject of Kaye's forthcoming book. Professor Kaye urged us to recognize and embrace that radicalism as we chart a course today.
The rest of the evening was spent in small group discussions. Attendees participated in discussions of poverty studies underway or planned by various Leagues, membership development and outreach strategies, or updates from the two ILOs, including a chance to see the watershed game. Consuelo Lopez-Springfield (LWVDC), a member of the state League board, spent time observing all three groups and reported on two highlights of each discussion before the entire body on Saturday.
Saturday began with the Zabelle Malkasian Lecture presented by Erica Nelson from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Nelson, Director of the Race to Equity project, presented the shocking information about Wisconsin’s (and Dane County’s) extraordinary racial disparities in education, employment, income, housing, and incarceration rates that many of us saw when she and Lawrence Torry Winn presented the original report at our local forum in September, 2014. She emphasized the need to look at all policy recommendations through the lens of racial equity.
Marilyn Boeldt, who has years of experience as a professional fundraiser, offered written information and some personal reflections about her experience in this field. Memorable lessons: You don’t get anything if you don’t ask. If you are confident about the mission of your organization, it should be easy to ask good people to support it. Politeness counts. Always write a thank-you promptly!
In the Parade of Leagues, local Leagues were allotted three minutes to speed-report a summary of their activities over the past year. Not surprisingly, voter outreach events were popular, as were forums on timely topics. Some Leagues screened films and discussed them, or had book study groups, or brown bag discussions of League positions on various subjects. LWVDC Co-President Brook Soltvedt used her three minutes to describe the City of Madison’s program of declaring public libraries and city offices extensions of the Clerk’s office, and our partnership in registering voters and assisting with in-person absentee voting. Some members of the Appleton League expressed serious interest in this program and said they thought it was the best thing they learned at the whole conference.
Membership and Leadership Development awards were given to both Leagues that applied: LWV-Beloit and LWV-Manitowoc County. Earning the award requires careful tracking of statistics around League activities.
Ingrid Rothe, LWVDC Vice President, was honored with the Meg McLane Award for Advocacy, recognizing her decades of work with League, from marital property reform in the '80s to founding and leading the Dane County Voter ID Coalition in the present. We are so proud of Ingrid's accomplishments!
The plenary session began with a report from Debra Cronmiller, President of LWVWI, reported on the national Pocantico Leadership Summit (This video—A Transformational Journey—summarizes the highlights of the meeting). To remain strong and effective for the next century, the League is willing to and expecting to make major changes in structure and administration by 2020. One example at this annual meeting: Leagues did not have to name a limited number of voting delegates based on their membership; all attendees were allowed to vote. The usual rule was suspended in part because of the number of new local Leagues whose status might not have been official at the time of the meeting. Cronmiller also stressed the need for better use of social media, more serious fundraising, less cumbersome administrative practices, and faster, more nimble responses to new issues.
Information about national’s strategic plans can be seen here:
State staff reported on the success of the Gear Up to Vote campaign, the creation of several new local Leagues in Wisconsin, and an overall increase in membership this year, to just under 1500. Members expressed appreciation to Executive Director Andrea Kaminski for her terrific work representing the League at the state capitol—work being recognized by Community Shares of Wisconsin, which selected Kaminski to receive the Linda Sundberg Civil Rights Defender Award. [Note to Leaguers: To improve messaging, we support fair voting maps (not redistricting), we support getting money out of politics (not money in politics), and we are working to block a constitutional convention, (we aren’t working on a constitutional convention)!] Erin Grunze spoke about her work last year in terms of the friendships and relationships she formed working with Leaguers around the state, and how those relationships are key to making her work both meaningful and effective. Alexandra Graff had bittersweet news: She is leaving LWVWI soon because she has started graduate school in accounting. But, she has joined LWVDC and will remain a part of League after she leaves her job.
The usual business was conducted uneventfully with one exception: On a motion from the floor, a minimum wage study, which had not been recommended by the board for adoption, was proposed by LWVDC, discussed, and unanimously adopted. Ingrid Rothe will chair the study, and members of five other local Leagues agreed to serve on the study committee. Because so many resources are readily available and Rothe had a distinguished professional career in research on poverty, the cost of the study should be minimal, and the time frame is likely to be short. The other two recommended programs, education and advocacy on voting rights and education and advocacy on poverty, were also approved.
As usual, one of the best features of the meeting was the opportunity to meet Leaguers from other parts of Wisconsin and to share ideas, concerns, and solutions. We encourage all members, whether brand new to League or a life member, to attend the state League meetings—the annual meeting each June, and the Issues Briefing in October. If you have questions about attending one of these events, or are looking for a “buddy” to go with, call or email the office.
Photos courtesy of Ingrid Rothe and Erin Grunze.