Why I joined the League

Six years ago on a hot July night, I was part of a large audience at a public hearing on a proposal to amend Bay Village's City Charter.

The mayor had been reelected in 2005 by 49 percent of the vote. The majority vote, 51 percent, was divided among four opponents. There was a grass roots movement to establish either a primary or a runoff election. Passions were running as high as the thermometer, on both sides of the issue.

Five members of the League of Women Voters kicked off the hearing with a presentation. They compared neighboring cities' charters, reviewed results of a survey of residents, projected costs for an extra election, weighed the various options, and presented their recommendation for a primary election. Wow. Suddenly a discussion that had split the city on emotional lines was focused on facts and best practices. This was nonpartisanship at its finest hour.

The primary election amendment won that fall by 64 percent. I joined the League because I witnessed the difference those five people made.

Joan Hirsh, our longtime chair and tireless advocate, died suddenly in 2011. The Bay chapter had lost its lodestar. When the 2012 Charter Review Commission was formed, the League was not invited to participate, and frankly we missed the boat by not claiming the seat that had traditionally been ours.

At the last minute, we learned there was a proposal to repeal the primary election because of its cost. Again we found ourselves in City Hall on a hot July night. We reminded to the Commission that the people had spoken overwhelmingly in favor of having our officials elected by majority vote. "This is not about money," we said.  "It is about democracy."

Others spoke eloquently against repealing the primary, and the proposal died. This Sept. 10, Bay citizens will have their first opportunity to vote in the primary that our League – and many other citizens – worked so hard to establish and then to preserve.

Bay's League of Women Voters chapter flourished in 2012-13, our 65th year. Our membership increased by over 50 percent. We joined with other westside chapters to host a series of forums to educate voters about regionalization. This fall, we will present traditional candidate forums, and in partnership with the Westlake | Bay Village Observer, we are bringing local Voters' Guides back to Bay Village.

So, to join the League of Women Voters, do you need a sponsor? No. A college degree? No. Do you have to be a liberal? Absolutely not. You don't even need to be a woman. A passion for democracy is the one and only requirement.

That's why I joined the League. Why don't you?

For information about LWV membership and events, visit lwvcuyahogaarea.org.

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Volume 5, Issue 14, Posted 9:51 AM, 07.09.2013