April 1996 Home   Newsletters

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President's Message (Astrid Monson)
Annual Meeting '96
Excerpts from "The 1996 Legislature" (Ah Quon McElrath)
Consensus on Con Con (Jean Aoki)
Human Resources (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
State Legislative Report (Jean Aoki & Arlene Ellis)
Can Honolulu League Survive?
New Guide to Services Published by ASK-2000
Voice of Our Own
Welcome
Well Wishes from Hawaii
Voter Article Deadline
National Convention

Can Honolulu League Survive?

In recent years Honolulu League has enjoyed an increase in membership. Such new activity as the Ad Watch, the Family Court Monitoring Project, and the Con Con Committee, have encouraged many new members – and some old ones, too – to participate more actively in League's programs. The experience they have gained should be useful in the future, as it has to be the new and younger League members who will enable it to survive.

Like LWV chapters all over the U.S. – to say nothing of other volunteer public interest organizations we are finding it hard to get young, vigorous enthusiastic members to take over offices and other responsibilities filled too long by our aging and worn-out leadership. We would hate to have to compute the average age of our Executive Committee, or even of the entire Board!

True, things could be worse. We just received a letter dated April 26 from an old friend and former League member who now lives in a mid-western city. Here are a few excerpts:

"With more women working who used to have leisure time for volunteer work, it is harder now to staff Board and Committees. You are lucky there [Honolulu] to have a viable group and be able to make an impact on public policy.

LWV has no appeal for me appeal locally. They run from anything substantive and are really not a force of influence. Only thing that distinguishes them is a Voters' Guide they publish in a major metro daily here.

If they have a position on any salient issue, it is a well kept secret. They do not appear and testify.

[Deleted] branch, which used to be so vital and effective, has been virtually defunct now for some years, but various efforts are being made to revive it now with active male membership participation.

There is a long-standing national reputation that merits preservation, but I am afraid many of the members today lack the interest and motivation that characterized those who built that reputation. Men actually run and campaign for seats on the Board."

And we think we have troubles?

But our own situation is perilous too. It is of course easier for elderly, retired women to find the time to take responsibility for various League activities. But all of these women were younger when they first started. They learned League policies and methods of operation from more experienced Leaguers and were thus able to take over when age or health caused the older ones to bow out.

This has not been happening in recent years in Honolulu. Unless members in their 30's or 40's or 50's start coming forward, we have to face the probability of suffering the same fate our friend from the mid-western city describes.

We hear many reasons for the unwillingness or inability of younger members to get active, "We don't know anything about education, about city planning, about TV production, about publicity and public relations, about counting votes (our principal money-raising source), about this, about that."

So what? The women who are heading up the committees doing these things didn't either, when they started. They had to learn, the hard way, by trial and error. The first testimony Arlene Ellis ever gave ten years ago, was to oppose the badly located Waiola housing development a former City administration was trying to sell. The audience was composed of 1500 people who thought they had been `promised low-cost housing. A wave of "boo's" swept over her and was repeated at the end of every sentence. But she finished what she had to say.

On 4/10/96 Arlene had the pleasure of testifying in favor of a City proposal to put a full-scale regional park on that same site and to point out that such a park was critically needed to serve the rapidly growing population of Ewa and Central Oahu.

Another reason given is lack of time. Obviously, young women who have a job and/or a growing family can't give the League full-time or anything like it. No one expects them to. Programs and activities can be broken up into small pieces which can be carried out in a few hours, to fit any member's schedule. Help, advice, guidance, information – these can all be given by old-time Leaguers who have "been there, done that." Within months the "apprentice" will have the background and the ability to take over specific functions to head committees, to serve on the Board, to develop special one time projects, and so on, in whatever time she can give. She can write Letters to the Editor, do Viewpoints, testify at City Council hearings, and so on.

Nobody can force anyone to come forward. But also, nobody can guarantee that things can go on as they are. If League is to survive, it will be up to the younger generation. Our friends letter tells us clearly what can happen. And, make no mistake about it, it can happen here, too. We can prevent it, but we have to act, now.

For example, we could use help in any of the following areas: Aloha Voter, Voter Service, Vote Count, Transportation, Speaker's Bureau, Recycling, Neighborhood Board, Planning & Zoning, the Council Observer Corps. and office help. Call the office and volunteer.

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