League of Women Voters of the Rivertowns

PO Box 142, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

Thanks to all the members who helped register voters and pass out voting guides this fall!

The Vinzant family helped voters understand proposals that will appear on the November 7 ballot and distributed the League of Women Voters iconic voter guide at the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market. From the left: Ginger, David, Carol and Huckleberry.

Sylvia and Auburn Hawes registering voters at the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market.

Steve Feiman registering voters at the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market.

Statement on Release of Voter Data to Federal Commission

August 2, 2017

It is very distressing to hear that the New York State Board of Elections has agreed to release voter information to the federal Election Integrity Commission.

Although the release of this information through Freedom of Information Law requests is not uncommon, this particular request is a veiled threat to our state’s voters. It is our fear that the collection of this data will ultimately lead to an increase in voter suppression. The Commission is already having a negative impact on our voters. The League has received many phone calls from individuals wishing to “unregister” themselves and remove themselves from the state voter database in order to remain anonymous to this commission. We encourage all voters to stand strong in the face of oppression. Get registered, stay registered, and VOTE in all upcoming elections.

– Jennifer Wilson, Program and Policy Director, League of Women Voters New York State

Highlights for 2016-2017:

At our kick-off meeting in September, Mary Jane Shimsky spoke about her many responsibilities as a county legislator and especially as chair of the infrastructure committee. She inspired us all, along with Emma Lou’s environmental committee, to send comments about the proposed parking of barges on the Hudson.

Emma Lou launched a letter-writing campaign on this topic.

Fall voter registration activities reached a new high, to be detailed by Lynn Levine.

Since November we’ve had a significant uptick in members and Ruth will be announcing our newest totals. In January many of us attended the Women’s march, either in New York or Washington DC. Also in January Susan Schwarz hosted a successful event for new members to identify areas of interest and opportunities for participation. In March we held a forum at the Greenburgh Public Library on the pros and cons of a constitutional convention where we had a record turnout of 75 audience members. Also in March, we were invited by the Social Studies Chair at Hastings HS to submit job descriptions for internships in May for seniors. Char Weigel prepared the job descriptions which were very well received; we will submit them again next year.

Rivertowns was also represented this year at the April 27 Running and Winning Program, with students from Irvington, Sleepy Hollow, and Ossining HS. In April some of us attended events in Albany such as the Health Care is a Human Right rally on the 4th, and the advocacy and lobby day on the 25th. In May, we sent two students to the Students Inside Albany Program. For the first time, thanks to increased outreach for both student events, we had more applications than we could accommodate. On May 4 we held a school board candidates night in Hastings – and on the 9th our hot topics breakfast put together by Susan and Char Weigel was held at the Doubletree Hotel where Aliso Boak spoke about human trafficking. And thanks to Barbara Dannenbring, we co-sponsored an event at the Irvington Library where the film “I Voted?” was shown. Later this month Susan Schwarz and Char Weigel will be attending the State League Convention upstate in Liverpool. Our annual meeting today is again highlighting the possibility of passing a single payer bill in NY with Betsy Rosenthal. We are also looking forward to our annual retreat on August 16 here at the lovely home of Jean and Ernie Howell.

The League of Women Voters Position on Human Trafficking

A recent article from The Hudson Independent on human trafficking in the Rivertowns can be found here.

Child Trafficking in Westchester County: Taking Action

By Charlene Weigel

Camp. Summer jobs. Typical family conversations this time of the year. What about child trafficking? Attendees at a recent event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Rivertowns were surprised to learn of a linkage between these three topics. Alison Boak, Executive Director of the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), discussed child trafficking in Westchester County in her presentation “Taking Action: Human Trafficking in the Rivertowns and Beyond.”

Boak, speaking as part of the League’s Hot Topics Breakfast series, highlighted local cases of child trafficking. Teenagers from Mexico, recruited by New York sleep away camps, were abused and forced to work long, unpaid hours. Joseph Yannai of Pound Ridge was convicted of sexually abusing young women whom he had lured to work on a book project. An example that struck home with several attendees was that of children or teens selling candy or magazines door-to-door for a “school project” who cannot name the local school that they attend. These cases are not isolated. Per the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the Polaris Project, there were 327 cases of human trafficking (labor and sexual) in New York State in 2016 alone.

Boak educated attendees to identify minors who may be trafficked. Clues include significant school absences, fear of an employer or family member, a child who is not allowed to socialize with other children or to leave the home, or a child who is always sleepy or unable to rest. These and other signs may be subtle, but repeated observations could raise questions in the minds of informed observers.

Spotting a trafficker can be more difficult. Boak described traffickers as family members, employers, coaches, virtually anyone. Traffickers often recruit vulnerable minors by showing attention, appearing to care for the child with promises of friendship and love. Traffickers may target minors in public places, especially those alone late at night, or, even more commonly, online via social media.

Boak urged attendees to take action if they encounter a situation of potential trafficking. She emphasized that 911 is the appropriate call if a child is in immediate danger. More likely, though, someone may observe a non-acute situation that raises suspicions. Attendees put two numbers into their cell phone to take action: (800) 342-3720 (NY State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Hotline) and (888) 373-7888 (National Human Trafficking Hotline).

Boak highlighted the work of the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force. In addition to IOFA, Task Force members include the Pound Ridge Police Department, My Sister’s Place, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, and the US Attorney’s Office (Southern District of New York). Boak encouraged attendees to ask their local police departments to join the Task Force. Participating police forces receive specialized training in best practices for approaching and assisting suspected victims of child trafficking. Attendees received a summary of three proposed bills on human trafficking sponsored by New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin with guidance on how to support passage of the legislation. Boak ended her presentation with a simple but compelling call-to-action, “Do Something!”

For more information: http://lwv-rivertowns.org/ and http://iofa.org/

We have officially kicked off the 2017 Legislative Session!
Since the 2016 election, we have welcomed dozens of new members to the League. Many of these new members have expressed interest in the League’s involvement with policy at the state level. As our long time members know, the New York State League lobbies and advocates for many state issues. Those of you who are new to the League should take a look at our Impact of Issues document. Our Impact on Issues contains all of our positions, how we came to those positions, and the actions we have taken since those positions were adopted.
The state League lobbies and advocates on many different issues – everything from education to the environment. Some of our biggest issue areas include election law, government reform, and ethics, health care, transportation, judicial issues, women’s issues including pay equity and reproductive choice environmental issues pertaining to clean air, water, and energy, and K through 12 education.  We are very lucky to have some amazing Issues Specialists that help the League stay on target on these issues.
The League works with several different issue based coalitions that help us to multitask during the legislative session. There is certainly never a dull moment at the Capitol and some days we find ourselves starting the morning with a press conference on ethics, attending a committee meeting on the environment in the afternoon, and later meeting with members to lobby them on education. Every week we post a blog called The Capitol Beat. The blog is more than just an overview of our week – it includes photos, insider information, and some snark and wit courtesy of our very own Barbara Bartoletti.
If you’re on twitter be sure to follow us @LWVNYS and like us on Facebook! We post pictures, articles, and advocacy action alerts daily. Our twitter account is the best way to stay up to date on what we are doing daily at the Capitol.
Finally to our newest endeavor – our NEW Advocacy Google Groups!! Francine Rodgers of our Saratoga League had an amazing idea to create issues-based Google Groups where League members interested in similar advocacy areas could talk to each other via email and hold monthly conference calls. The groups will be headed by the state office but members of the groups can share their ideas, articles, statewide bills of interest, and whatever else they feel is appropriate. The conference calls will be an opportunity to share ideas and to hear what we are doing at the state level. The most exciting part of these groups is it will be an excellent opportunity for the League to use its membership to lobby on pertinent legislation. We will send out action alerts on specific bills in real time so that those interested in calling their legislators can do so exactly when the time is right.
We are very excited about this new project. For now, we will be kicking off with 2 groups – the first is a General Advocacy Group that will be headed by myself and Barbara.  We will use this group to keep you all up to date on the general happenings at the Capital (but be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on twitter too!) The second kick-off group will focus on Education issues. This group will be headed by our Education Finance Specialist, Marian Bott. Education is always a major advocacy area of the League and we spend a lot of our time fighting to keep bad education policy from being passed at the state level.
If you are interested in either of these groups please email me at Jennifer@lwvny.org. I will add you to whichever group you would like to join – feel free to sign up for both! Once we get these two groups up and running we will be setting up other groups. We are thinking of setting up groups focused on Environmental Issues, Women’s Issues, and Health Care. If you have an interest in joining any of those groups please let me know and I will add you to the list.
As a reminder: our Vice President of Voter Service, Judie Gorenstein also heads a Voter Service Google Group: lwvnyvoterservices@googlegroups.com If you are interested in being included in that group email Judie at: judiel728@aol.com
Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to working with you all in 2017!
Best wishes,
Jennifer Wilson
Program and Policy Director
The League of Women Voters of New York State
62 Grand Street
Albany NY 12207

We are hearing that Leagues nationwide are seeing a spike in interest from community members who want to “do something.”

There is much more each and every one of us can accomplish in addition to becoming a member.

Here are 10 Ways You Can Help Defend Democracy

1. Sign the League of Women Voter’s Petition

“I stand with the League to ensure that elections are always free, fair and accessible. I will work with the League to stop voter suppression tactics that threaten our democracy and the right to vote.”

2. Become an e-Activist

Receive updates from the League and hold your elected officials accountable. Take action on the League’s key voting rights and other priorities.

3. Volunteer Your Time

We are working to make a difference and actively engaging people in more than 700 communities. Sign up to volunteer!

4. Donate to our Defend Democracy Fund

Your support makes it possible for LWV to take a stand in statehouses and courtrooms across the country.

5. Spread the Word

Stay engaged every day, and leverage your social media followers to get involved too!  Follow the League on Twitter and Facebook to find out how to make an impact.

6. Attend a Community Meeting

Learn about local issues and hear from elected officials. You can connect and organize with people already active in your community. Check your local government’s website or contact your local League.

7. Register to Vote, and help others Register

Make sure your family and neighbors are up to date on their registration. The League works year-round at schools and community events to prepare eligible voters. Check out VOTE411.org for more information.

8. Contact your Representatives

Elected officials work for the people and need to hear from concerned citizens like you.

9. Run for Office

You can directly contribute to the direction of local politics in your own back yard. From school board to the state house, there are many opportunities to run for office and make a difference.

10. Write a Letter to the Editor

Newspapers print concerns from readers and love to hear about local concerns. Tailor the issue for your community and support local newspapers when possible.

On December 10th, the LWVR met to come to a consensus on updates to NYS legislative procedures.

Here is some helpful background information to familiarize you with the questions that were considered.

The Rivertowns League reached consensus on the following items:

Term Lengths for State Legislators

The consensus was for staggered 2-4-4 terms for both Assembly Members and Senators. A system with legislators who serve one two-year term and two four-year terms every ten years is considered a 2-4-4 term system.

Legislative Leadership and Committee Chairs

There was a consensus for restrictions on leadership and committee chair positions.  As it can take time to develop expertise, 8-10 years seemed like a reasonable limit for a committee chair and there would be allowances to assume other titles.  Entrenched leadership can produce corruption and stagnation and chill the development of new talent to move up the ranks.  There was agreement that no limit should be imposed on the number of positions allowed in each chamber.

Allowances for Leadership Positions, or “LULUs”

A metric should be developed to define which committees deserve stipends as some committees accomplish meaningful work while others appear to exist to “make work”.

Outside Income

There was a consensus that no limit should be imposed on outside income but all income (including campaign contributions) should be publicly traceable and enforced by an independent ethics board.  Legislators should recuse themselves if a conflict presents itself. All compensation should weigh in the cost of living in different areas of the state.

The League of Women Voters Rivertowns wants teens to get involved in the political process! Every spring local high school students are chosen to attend “Students Inside Albany.” For more information see the application at the bottom of this page.

Other opportunities for teens to get involved in the political process:

Intern for U.S. Representative Nita Lowey in her Westchester Office