Making Democracy Work

Current Issues

Issues of focus/priority areas

Elections Bring Moderating Tasks

On August 14th we moderated a forum with candidates running in the primary for the 1st Barnstable District state representative seat. The candidates-Alex Morash, Ian Ryan and Elisa Zawadzkas shared their positions on many issues--education, transportation, casinos, retention of younger people on the Cape, waste water, substance abuse, and mental health. Joan Craig moderated the debate and Ryan Barber from the Cape Cod Times, Matt Pitta from WXTK radio, and Caitlin Russell from The Register served as the media panel. The forum was aired live by the Cape Cod Community Media Center with a simulcast on WXTK radio. The candidates took many questions from the live audience and at-home viewers who submitted their questions via Twitter, Facebook and email. The forum can be viewed in its entirety on the Cape Cod Community Media Center at http://capemedia.org/ The primary election will be held on September 9, 2014

A Busy 2013-2014

We had an active year which began with our opening social program on September 11th. After a light dinner and "catching up" after the summer, Anne Van Vleck, the Executive Director of Cape Cod Young Professionals, CCYP, spoke about the organization's efforts to support a Cape environment that sustains and retains young people and families on the Cape. Their goal is to "connect Cape Cod's emerging leaders, engage them in the community, and support their efforts to advance personally and professionally". It was an inspiring and impressive presentation and we all felt more encouraged about the future of the Cape.

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Mental Health Forum

We presented a public forum on February 8th in Harwich, "Our Community Challenge: Mental Health Parity". Consider that mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide and it costs more to ignore mental disorders than to treat them. The Affordable Care Act requires that mental health needs be treated as thoroughly and affordably as physical health needs. The panel of experts--those working within the current system and Senator Dan Wolfe discussed where our community stands today and where we still have to go. For a summary of the presentations, issues and needs, please lick on the excellent report by Lee Roscoe in the "Barnstable Patriot." The Forum

Our Legislative Lunch

"Sharing our issues and concerns"

Wastewater Forum

Cape Cod Commission water quality specialist Erin Perry addresses attendees at the April 12, 2014 League of Women Voters Cape Cod educational forum
The Cape Cod Wastewater Challenge: New Developments, New Opportunities
We celebrated Coast Day on September 21st with a guided visit to the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center. The MASSTC is operated by the County's Department of Health and Environment. Its primary purpose is testing new pollutant-reduction technologies and disseminating that information to the Cape towns. The tour was guided by the director, George Heufelder who always presents fascinating and fact-filled information about alternative solutions to sewering. He explained about 10 of the various projects the site was testing. Vendors apply to have their technology tested at the site and pay for the performance evaluation.

George Heufelder explaining the operations to the League and the public at the Mass Alternative Septic Test site

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The League participated with LWVMA and other environmental partners to gather signatures for the bottle bill and were highly successful, collecting 485 +/- signatures. The petition indicates agreement that the question should be determined in the November 2014 election. If passed the new law would include water, sports drinks, flavored teas, juices and other beverages. It would re-establish the Clean Environment Fund, directing the state to spend forfeited deposits to improve recycling and fund environmental improvements.

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We conducted our first major forum of the year with the Falmouth League, "Revitalizing Civic Education to Empower Youth". The forum featured Dr. Meira Levinson of Harvard Graduate School of Education who spoke about efforts to engage young people to participate more actively and positively in their communities. Our panel, following the keynote, consisted of two Dennis civics teachers, a state representative, and a student representative. The forum was well attended by those who value engaging young people to become participating and thoughtful citizens, and many participated in the following discussion.

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Our County Government Committee has been following both county actions and the Charter Review Committee. The Review Committee has put forward 3 distinct options regarding possible county government restructure. The third option calls for a strong executive and an elected representative board representing districts of nearly equal population. The options can be found on the County website under Charter Review Committee.Three meetings have been schedules for public comment in October.

Read the pros and cons

and LWVCCA's position

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The Health Care Committee will study existing and proposed mental health care resources on the Cape and educate the public about accessing mental health care providers. A forum is planned for February, 2014

Highlights of 2012-2013

Read the pros and cons, a letter about county government our president contributed to the Cape Cod Times

The Supreme Court Decision-Money and Politics

In our April forum the League's panel of experts debated power, money and access. Read about this fascinating forum. Corporate personhood ....and view the very informative timeline produced by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Timeline of Personhood Rights and Powers

Committee Reports

We Did Our Job

All out to sign up voters

Navigating Health Care on Cape Cod

In January, we conducted a highly successful, information filled forum in which the leaders of Cape Cod Healthcare, Cape Cod Preferred Physicians, SHINE, and Oral Health Excellence Collaborative (OHEC) provided a data-rich overview of the scope, availability, and challenges of navigating health care on Cape Cod.

Click on the attachment below for a summary of this information:

Forum

Four Forums: Losing Cape Cod

League members attended four town forums led by Paul Niedzwiecki on the critical issues facing Cape Cod. Read a summary of those questions and answers, below.

The Cape's critical issues

Climate Change and the Future of Cape Cod

After decades of research, scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, poses significant risks to human and natural systems, and requires immediate action. Recent reports show an acceleration of change that projects a rising sea level that could reach 3 feet by the end of the century. Cape Cod is especially vulnerable to climate change. Our quality of life, our economy, and our natural environment are dependent on the waters surrounding us.

The League conducted a "full house" forum in April which gave us an opportunity to learn about the ramifications for our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. The speakers presented up to date information about the global climate change, the expected impact on Cape Cod, and the steps we can take to lessen the magnitude and prepare for unavoidable impacts to our built and natural environments.

Speakers were: Eric Davidson, Executive Director of the Woods Hole Research Center; Megan Tyrell, National Seashore's Research and Monitoring Coordinator; Lauren McKean, Director of the National Seashore's Climate Friendly Parks Program; and Paul Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Cape Cod Commission

Legislative Breakfast

The Legislative Breakfast, held in March at the Cape Cod Community College Lorusso Applied Technology Building was well received by all in attendance. Special thanks go out to College President Kathy Schatzberg and her staff and caterers for a great morning. We appreciated the remarks and discussions with our legislators and/or their aides. Specific comments were made regarding items the LWVCCA felt were priorities, including:

Money and Politics and concerns regarding the Citizens United decision and issues of campaign finance and transparency

Expanded Water Bill to include water, juice, iced tea and similar beverage containers to the current list of drinks with a 5 cent deposit

Casino Gambling and how it might impact the Cape

Waste Water Management and possible regional solutions to the Cape problem

Health Care and possible changes in the Massachusetts health care legislation

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Health Forum

Despite the January snow, a good sized crowd showed up for the health care forum, "Navigating Health Care on Cape Cod." Michael Lauf, President and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare, headlined our excellent panel of speakers that also included Dr. Brian O'Malley who spearheaded Cape Care Coalition for many years and currently is on the board of Cape Cod Preferred Physicians; Sonia Brewer, Regional Director of the Cape and Islands SHINE; and BL Hathaway, Director of Oral Health Excellence Collaborative (OHEC). Michael Lauf summarized the progress made financially at Cape Cod Hospital and improvements in services and expertise. Lauf and O'Malley tackled the question of what are Accountable Care Organizations and what they mean to doctors and patients. SHINE provides free counseling for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries at town COAs to help them make the best decisions regarding Medigap insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans, prescription drug programs and other health care financial assistance programs. OHEC has 4 goals: to reduce incidence of dental disease, increase access to dental care, build capacity, services, and skills to serve special populations, and to expand oral health programs and services. BL Hathaway probably provided the most memorable sentence of the forum: "Dental disease is the most common chronic infectious disease among seniors, adults, and children." Moreover, there is a great shortage of dental health professionals on the Cape, and MassHealth, since 2010, does not cover restorative dental care for adults. The Cape also suffers a shortage of psychiatric professionals. The health care committee will prepare a more complete summary this spring for those who missed the program or who want to refresh their memories.

County Government

The Committee continued its focus on County government and possibilities for a more responsive structure to cope with regional imperatives. The committee planned a forum in September to address this issue and presented a noted scholar, Dr. Ronald Oakerson as keynote speaker, and a panel which included Co-chair of the Special Committee on Governance Rob O'Leary, APCC Executive Director Maggie Geist, Paul Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commission, and State Senator Dan Wolfe.

Members closely followed the Special Committee on Governance through its conclusion in February 2012. The League provided testimony to the Commission and we are continuing to follow the responses of the County Commissioners as they study the Committee recommendations.

The Committee put together information for use by the League in the March consensus on structure. The resulting position was presented to the County Commissionersand to the Assembly of Delegates.

View our Forum on County Government

http://myaccesstv.com/component/hwdvideoshare/viewvideo/955/business-and-economics/discussion-of-barnstable-county-government.html

Committee on Supporting Youth

The committee participated in a strategic planning event sponsored by the Cape Cod Foundation that involved a variety of private and public agencies and government offices in planning strategies for a comprehensive regional collaborative effort to support a positive future for Cape Cod youth. The LWVCCA Board voted to commend the Cape Cod Foundation for its leadership on this initiative and to encourage the Foundation to support the implementation of the plan. The LWVCCA is offering its support to the plan in areas involving civic education, voter service, and regional collaboration.

On a different project, Karen Mazza, from the Supporting Youth Committee initiated a pilot community service project on voter registration with three students from a Communication and Persuasion class at Cape Cod Community College. At the end of the semester the pilot will be evaluated to improve the support and success of this project.

Voter Service

Our busy year included:

Contacting teachers and school officials to determine how we could help register students

Organizing and staffing local candidates' forums in four different towns

Supplying timers for a town meeting

Sponsoring our third "Don't Just Stand There...Run" program for citizens considering running for office

All those who participated deserve our thanks, with a special bow to new member Jan Hively, who worked with one town clerk to create an eighteenth birthday message (with voter registration form enclosed). We hope it will be adopted by other towns and Jan will introduce this effort at the annual Cape Cod Town Clerks meeting this summer.

Governing Cape Cod--Meeting the challenge

The League conducted a follow-up forum of its "standing room only" forum on County Government. The keynote presenter was Houghton College political science professor Ronald J. Oakerson, author of Governing Local Political Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis.

Following Dr. Oakerson's remarks, Rob O'Leary, Co-Chair, Special Commion on Governess; Paul Niedzwiecki, CC Commission Executive Director; Maggie Geist, Association to Preserve Cape Cod; and State Senator Dan Wolfe commented on and discussed the issues.

Members of the audience received a packet of information and also took part in the discussion.

The meeting was open to the public and held at the Harwich Community Center September 17, 2011.

Affordable Housing

Protecting Affordable Housing

Background and History of the Affordable Housing Law: The affordable housing law was enacted in 1969 to address local zoning and land use restrictions that make it impossible or economically infeasible to build affordable housing under existing local zoning. Numerous studies have shown that these restrictions (large-lot zoning and the prohibition of multi-family housing) are responsible for high housing costs, low levels of housing production, as well as increased sprawl. Today, less than 1.5% of land in eastern Massachusetts is zoned for multi-family. The 1969 affordable housing law ensures that each community in the Commonwealth does its fair share to meet the housing needs of its residents. The affordable housing law (Chapter 40B) encourages a goal of at least 10% of affordable housing in each community. A total of 51 municipalities have met this standard+more than double the number in 1997. An additional 40 communities are close to reaching the 10 percent goal, demonstrating the significant progress this law has made in the creation of affordable housing. Today, Massachusetts remains an expensive place to live. The Committee to Protect the Affordable Housing Law is a grassroots coalition of more than 200 individuals and organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of residents. The coalition includes civic, business, religious, and academic leaders as well as senior, environmental, housing, and civil rights groups. The affordable housing law is responsible for 80% of the affordable housing created in Massachusetts, outside the major cities, over the past decade. Almost half of all of the affordable units created using this law were developed by non-profit organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, and by local housing groups. If this law goes away, a lot less affordable housing would be built and in some communities NO affordable housing would be built. Businesses of all sizes need the affordable housing law so their employees can afford to live here. In addition, some seniors would have trouble affording to stay in the communities where they have lived their whole lives, and working families wouldn't be able to afford to live in the communities where they grew up. 12,000 units of housing in the pipeline would never get built; we would lose the construction jobs that go along with those developments.

Civility in the Public Square

"Is Disrespect Killing Democracy? "

Increasingly across the country citizens have become upset and discouraged by the lack of civility in public discourse. Negative campaigns ads deliberately mislead and misrepresent; quotes are intentionally taken out of context, politicians avoid open forums because film clips can be so easily manipulated to their disadvantage and questioners are disrespectful. Editorials read: Politicians must work for greater good, not for partisan gain. Polarization has made it increasingly difficult for elected officials to work for compromise. News has become a product to sell. The We of We the people is becoming lost. Can we hope for something better? Fourteen organizations, including Cape Cod Community College and the League of Women Voters, think so! That's why they joined together to present a discussion about the problem and some possible solutions. When the critical mass of those wishing to make choices for greater civility gets large enough, change becomes a social movement that can impact the political process and change the status quo. It's been said: a growing seed can dislodge slabs of concrete!

Wastewater Forum

See Our Forum" Wastewater Forum: Part1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5