For further information:
Voting is a fundamental right and all eligible voters should have the equal opportunity to exercise that right. LWV is dedicated to ensuring that our elections remain free, fair and accessible. LWV ABC's December 13 meeting focused on voting rights legislation, featuring Congressman Dean Phillips from Minnesota's Third Congressional District.
The meeting began with an introduction on voting rights legislation being passed by state legislatures and in the US Congress now by LWV ABC President Gretchen Sabel. Our guest speaker, Congressman Dean Phillips, then shared his perspectives on the legislation and the chances these bills have of passage. We'll have time for discussion after. LWV ABC Program Chair DeeAnn Christensen introduced Representative Phillips and moderated the discussion.
QCTV recorded the meeting for later cablecast, you can see it at this link. http://qctv.org/league-of-women-voters/
Statement on voting rights legislation from LWV US President Dr Deborah Turner in Dec 2 email:
Our national legislature continues to be stalled on action supporting voting rights. As a result, many state legislatures feel emboldened to curtail voting rights. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer as we look to the coming year, nor do I want to be a Pollyanna about where we are headed, but I want to be a realist — for the League and for our country. As we throw our time and energy into our critical activities and campaigns, we must never forget that the backbone of our democracy is the right to vote. If all voices have access and all voices are heard, we can change the things that need to be changed through the will of the people. We all deserve elected officials who understand and respect this point. So, as you commit to changing our world for the better, we must all continue to keep our eye on the prize: fair and equitable access to the ballot box for all voters in our country. This is the ultimate way we defend democracy and empower voters, and that is who we are.
The big news is that we are planning to hold only virtual meetings from December to March, possibly April if winter weather or Covid continue to play havoc with the option of in-person meetings. You will be informed of these virtual meetings in our LWV ABC newsletters that go out to our members and friends nearly monthly.
January, February and March will also be virtual meetings - mark your calendars for the second Monday of the month. We also have Book and Film Club meetings on the first Wednesday and third Wednesday, respectively.
House Redistricting Committee Hearings
The House has three remote (virtual) hearings scheduled as follows to present, review and approve draft legislative and congressional maps for Minnesota:
Senate Redistricting Committee
No further hearings of the Senate Redistricting Committee have been announced to date. There is expected to be at least one more public input session before the Senate takes additional testimony.
Court Special Redistricting Panel
Watch for information on the Supreme Court Special Redistricting Panel hearings for oral arguments and transcripts of public hearings. While the opportunity for public testimony has ended, parties to the lawsuit must submit proposed maps by December 7 with oral arguments scheduled for January 4. You can observe oral arguments on line or view a recording. A recording of the November 3rd oral arguments on redistricting principles can be viewed here Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel Oral Arguments, November 3, 2021 - YouTube
In many of the larger cities and almost all counties, local redistricting is underway, even if you can't see it. We are working with several local Leagues regarding how to send letters to county commissions, city councils, and charter commissions on establishing redistricting principles for local redistricting. This includes working to identify and partner with other community organizations to co-sign or endorse these letters to bring greater public attention to bear on the redistricting process in counties and cities with wards. If you are planning to wait until February, or if you're being told "nothing can be done until legislative lines are drawn", you will be too late and will have limited opportunity to impact how maps will be drawn. If you have questions about local redistricting or want more information about how to engage in this process, see our Local Redistricting Action kit on the LWV MN website here or contact me by email or phone. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-295-0489)
LWV ABC Treasurer Wes Volkenant took a look at these maps to see what these changes would mean in the LWV ABC area. Here's his analysis of a couple of potential changes and the possible political impacts of the changes:
Peter Wattson and LWVMN have issued their non-partisan Minnesota redistricting map proposals for Congressional, State Senate and State House districts. My early analysis shows that they've taken the approach that many expect the judicial panel assigned to redistrict the State, to take in a few months - no major changes in design; but even small changes would have an impact on each of our areas. They also attempted to keep as few Counties split as possible on the Congressional maps, and as few cities/towns split, as possible, on their legislative maps.
Currently, our area is represented in Congress primarily by the 6th District's Tom Emmer, with Dean Phillips' 3rd District covering Coon Rapids and the 5th District's Ilhan Omar representing southern Anoka County. In the LWVMN's proposal, the City of Anoka joins Coon Rapids in the 3rd District, while the rest of the County would remain unchanged. However, the proposed 6th District, in losing the St. Cloud area, would become more of a Twin Cities wrap-around, adding additional parts of Carver County and adding Scott County in exchange for the area given over to the 7th District. In LWVMN's proposal, the 6th and 7th would be firm Republican seats, the 4th and 5th would be overwhelmingly Democratic seats, the 3rd would remain a solid Democratic hold, the 1st and 8th would be competitive lean-Republican Congressional seats, and the 2nd a lean-Democratic seat. No current Republican would be moved into another's District.
In the State Legislative mapping proposal, actually quite a few current members across the State would be drawn into districts held by another member, including one situation in our LWV-ABC area. The current Jim Abeler District 35 would become more Republican, as it would lose its Coon Rapids precincts and see Nowthen, southern Oak Grove and northeastern Andover join the rest of Andover, Anoka and Ramsey as a new proposed district. The Champlin portion of John Hoffman's Coon Rapids/Champlin District 36 would stay on the Hennepin side of the river and combine with parts of Dayton and Brooklyn Park to form a new DFL-leaning district. In the new proposal, Coon Rapids, which has split three ways (Jerry Newton is Senator in District 37 in eastern Coon Rapids), would instead be the solidified, principal part of a new DFL-leaning district, that would also include parts of western Blaine.
Michele Benson's Republican District 31 covering northern Anoka County, would lose portions to the Jim Abeler district, and would expand north and northeastward out of Anoka County into an even more Republican voting base. And, the current southern Anoka County District 41 held by Mary Kunesh would remain relatively unchanged as a DFL stronghold, with parts of northwestern Ramsey County staying tied to Fridley, Columbia Heights and Hilltop. It does appear Spring Lake Park would be moved into the northern portion of this District, as well, and in this proposal, current House members Feist and Bernardy would be drawn into the same District, while current member Koegel would be drawn away from her current Coon Rapids/Blaine base into the other House seat of that Senate district. This would be an area of the local mapping that I would keep an eye on when the judges' version is released.
DEI Chairperson needed! Take the DEI survey! Join the DEI Roundtable!
LWV ABC seeks a Chair for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Committee
In April 2021, LWV ABC membership added a commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to our bylaws in keeping with the updated LWVUS bylaws. Following our annual membership meeting, the LWV ABC Board created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. (See Duties of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee in our online Member Handbook).
The LWV ABC Board appointed new member Shalonda Gordon as DEI chair. Shalonda brought a wealth of DEI experience and training to the position. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for Shalonda, she was offered a great career opportunity in North Carolina in August and has since moved to there.
Therefore, LWV ABC is seeking a new chair for our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. If you are interested in chairing this vital committee or want more information about this opportunity, send an email to email@example.com.
DEI Membership Survey (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion)
Prior to her move to North Carolina, Shalonda had begun work on a DEI survey. DEI surveys help organizations benchmark the current status of DEI within the organization and develop a DEI program.
Please complete our DEI survey at https://forms.gle/mEgAYk8C5HmfFVHR6
DEI Roundtable (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion)
Membership Chair Pat Kennedy has begun attending the DEI Roundtable sponsored by LWV Crystal New Hope East Plymouth Robbinsdale (CNHEPR) on the 3rd Monday of every month at 6:30pm. The meeting is open to all LWV members to start the conversation about what it means to implement a DEI policy and how to turn those words into action. The purpose of the roundtable is to have a candid conversation in order to exchange ideas, talk about what has worked in reaching underserved communities, discuss the challenges, and even get some ideas for "homework". If you are interested in attending the DEI roundtable, please contact Michelle Jayne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was provided by Julie Trude, LWV ABC Vice President. We will add a link to the video from this session when it is available.
Left photo: Scott Hickock, Community Development Director for City of Fridley, with Gretchen Sabel, LWV ABC President
Right photo: INCOMPARABLE in Fridley City Hall lobby is formed from the letters of Columbia Arena which sat at the site of Fridley City Hall (2019) from 1968 to 2015.
Photos by Julie Trude
Fridley is Growing!
Scott Hickok, the Community Development Director of Fridley, shared vital information on Fridley’s growth in population and tax base at Fridley City Hall on October 19 for our October in-person program.
As you drive the major corridors in Fridley, including University Ave., Highway 65 and East River Road, you have been observing change with the construction of several modern apartment complexes and townhomes. Near the North Star Commuter Rail Station, Taylor developed a new complex with a swimming pool and activities building, 265 new units of which 100 were set aside for seniors (and a few of those offering rent assistance based on income). The former Holly Center site offers another new apartment with 260 units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space. This private redevelopment alone, is valued at $60 million, a substantial increase from the old retail center.
A former FMC site was a costly site to prepare with environmental clean-up. The city assisted in the site preparation and Hides developed 1.7 million square feet of new industrial space on East River Road. These projects, among others, have added one-half billion dollars of taxable property value to Fridley in the past 5 years! That is a huge transformation for an aging first-ring suburb. A fun project included development of “Forgotten Star,” a local brewery, re-using the former smoke stacks from a destroyed FMC building.
The new housing options plus turnover of existing housing stock has increased Fridley’s population and reduced the average age of its residents. The 2021 Morris Leatherman random sample survey revealed that over 45% of Fridley’s households are headed by an adult under age 30. Fridley is a community of many one-level homes that allowed residents to age in place, skewing their population to older residents until recently. Today only 18% of all residents are at or over the age of 65.
Fridley has become more diverse as it population grew. The 2020 census shows a population of 29,590; growth of 8.75% since 2010. Fridley is now the 4th largest city in Anoka County. The census also reports that 42.7% of this population is listed as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People-Of-Color), while 57.3% of the population is white and Latina (11.1).
Fridley’s resident satisfaction survey indicated high satisfaction and positive attitudes towards the community and neighbors. Most indicated they liked living close to family or a job, the city feels safe and offers a small-town feel. In fact, 98% of resident feel safe in their community, have regular contact with neighbors, and those surveyed state there is a high level of acceptance to newcomers of diverse backgrounds.
The major area of concern seemed to be neighborhood parks, even though satisfaction was at 90%, a drop from 95% in a previous survey. As a result, another study is occurring that seeks resident involvement in local park upgrades and potential amenities as 91% agree the appearance of parks affects the value of homes.
Michelle Witte, Executive Director of LWV Minnesota, spoke at the Women’s March in Anoka on October 2. She delivered a thoughtful message about the health of women and children and the Rights of Women being linked to the improvement of health in our democracy.
Following is the text she spoke from at the meeting. Photo credits to Sue Dergantz.
Women’s Health = Democracy Health - Women’s March Abortion Access Rally, 10/2/21
Hello and welcome to all of you who are lifting up your voices today in support of the constitutional right for a woman to control her reproductive choices.
Now, you might be wondering, what is the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota doing here at this rally? What does the League of Women Voters have to do with Abortion Access?
Well – let me give you a bit of a history lesson. The LWV was incorporated 102 years ago, on the eve of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which expanded voting rights for women. As soon as the suffragists achieved this new milestone in our democracy, which took 72 years to achieve, they transformed all the suffrage associations into the League of Women Voters, because getting the vote was not the end for women – it was just the BEGINNING of what women saw possible, in improving lives for families. Women did not want the vote for the PRIVILEGE it presented, but rather for the JUSTICE they could now seek within THEIR government, by being truly represented at the tables of power. Of course, we know it took much longer for ALL people of color to truly be able to exercise their right to vote and to be represented within the government – and we’re still on that journey today. But I want to make this so very clear – that the reason women were fighting for this right is they wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and children. Women in 1920 immediately fought for better standards of living for women and kids – setting a limit on women’s work day to “only 12 hours a day.” Starting kindergarten for children. Setting work place safety and hygiene standards. Getting the right to vote was the beginning of being able to successfully advocate for the rights and needs of women and children.
And the biggest start to advocacy was becoming educated… the LWV still today, while we’re nonpartisan, meaning we don’t endorse political parties nor candidates, we DO encourage being educated on candidates, and taking action on important issues – issues that have been studied extensively, and have achieved a consensus within the membership. And one of those key issues was in 1983, just 10 years after Roe V. Wade, when the League came out with the following position on abortion access: "Public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices. (1983)." We have held this position for 38 years – and it is now a position held by over 60% of most Americans.
Now I’m not a women’s health expert, but what I would say is ultimately at the core of the Texas Abortion Ban is the POOR HEALTH of our democracy. As it turns out, these issues are LINKED. The health of women and children and the RIGHTS of WOMEN have always been linked to the improvement of HEALTH in our DEMOCRACY. As racism was challenged in the 1965 Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, and as access to education and HEALTHCARE has improved for women in our country – do you know what else improved? Women’s ability to control their reproduction. Unwanted pregnancies and teen pregnancies are AT ALL TIME LOWS, thanks to expansion of rights, education and health care to women.
I think we can clearly see in the example of the new Texas Anti-Abortion laws, that Texas FAILS it’s DEMOCRACY HEALTH CHECK-UP on many statistics, which are OUT of normal range:
Closing access to women and people of color to vote and to serve in the legislature, to fairly represent the population of Texas, ultimately equates to what we’re all here about today – closing access to LEGAL HEALTH SERVICES for women.
So why is the League of Women Voters here again today? Because so many issues we’re facing in our country today can be directly attributed to the POOR HEALTH OF OUR DEMOCRACY. And because just like winning the right to vote, the only thing that will improve our democracy is people like all of you here today, continuing to speak up for these important rights that we also know are those agreed upon by the majority of the country.
In order to uphold abortion access -or voting rights or climate change, or any of the important issues the League of Women Voters has studied and put forward as positions that are HEALTHY for our DEMOCRACY – we need to keep staying involved and active. That means – get to know your candidates for school board, and city council and vote on November 2nd. Become an election judge. Join an organization like the League or other civic organization, to help improve the Health of our Democracy. Support women’s health clinics like Nucleus Clinic, which has been serving women in Anoka County since 1971.
Have your voice heard in the redistricting process here in Minnesota, where we’re working to create much more fair maps than Texas. Encourage your elected representatives to support POLICY SOLUTIONS – like making birth control for women free. Because a HEALTHY DEMOCRACY - one that supports voting access and equal representation of our citizens around the tables of power - will also support access to women’s health and to her fundamental constitutional right to privacy with regard to her reproductive choices.
And most of all – don’t give up! This is not the time to tune out, or let anger put you on the sidelines. As my great hero, the late Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis said, "Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part."
Thank you all for DOING YOUR PART by using YOUR constitutionally protected right to raise your voice here today!
Members of LWV ABC are participating in a study by Council of Metropolitan Leagues (CMAL) on metro area county governments. Participating members are Julie Trude, Dee Ann Christensen, and Wes Volkenant. The full report from this study will be coming out this winter, so stay tuned!
This group's recent task was to interview commissioners and administrative staff to learn more about topics that they delved into last month. Following is a summary of their interviews.
Anoka County Transparent?
Citizens cannot address the full county board at regular meetings. Citizens may only address commissioners at the beginning of committee meetings. Committees often have a quorum of commissioners, but not the entire board. All meetings occur during the daytime. The only evening public hearing is the Truth-in-Taxation hearing held just before the levy is adopted. Once the ongoing CMAL LWV study of metro area county government is complete, the practices of other counties will be known.
Regular Board meetings are televised and can be viewed through a link on the county webpage https://www.anokacounty.us/693/Board-of-Commissioners, or on their You Tube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/AnokaCountyMN/featured. Committee meetings are where discussions occur that lead to decisions recommended to the full board. These meetings are not televised, recorded. No minutes are taken. The only way to follow what occurs is to attend these meetings. The agenda, location and time for committee meetings is posted on the online county calendar. https://www.anokacounty.us/calendar.aspx?CID=25
Interviews with county administration and county commissioners by our local County Study Group revealed the philosophy that commissioners learn from citizens during their campaigns, when they are at their businesses, when they attend events and through calls and emails. These contacts form the basis for their decisions on setting the budget, their priorities in lobbying state and federal legislators, policies they set or change, buildings they construct and all things that affect the public.
The interviews revealed the commissioners understand this contrasts with their experiences at the city level where public participation is available at all regular meetings and invited and welcomed for many projects and policies. The Study Group heard that commissioners believe the public doesn’t really care about the matters they decide and they are able to fairly represent the public without input at meetings.
By contrast, commissioners seemed proud to share that up to 1,000 residents attended Zoom meetings on county road projects when remote attendance was offered during Covid.
Anoka County Commissioner Fun Facts
Protecting the Metro Area Water Supply
October 16, 2021; 10:00-11:30 AM – via Zoom
Sponsored by CMAL – the Council of Metropolitan Area Leagues
A National Community Forum -- Health Reform and Social Justice
Offered by LWV Davis Area, California
Program: Learn about Fridley’s transition from a city with an aging population to a city that’s welcoming to young families and providing varieties of housing and other amenities to make Fridley a vibrant community for the future. Presentation topics will include 2021 Resident Survey results, community development updates, and Park System Improvement Plan updates. Fridley’s experience with this transition will be applicable to other cities in our area as we move from development to re-development.
*For those in the City of Fridley, the program will also be broadcast on Fridley Municipal Television, Channel 17 and will be shared on the LWV ABC website when available. We will not have a virtual attendance option for this meeting.
Our thanks to Alyssa Kruzel who was the Community Engagement Specialist at City of Fridley, for making these arrangements. Alyssa will soon be on to a new position with MN DOT, so we will be hosted by Scott Hickock.
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