the LWV's Mrs. Arlen Scott
her eye is on the Council
The SUNDAY STAR-BULLETIN & ADVERTISER
Honolulu, Nov. 2, 1969, C-8
When women finally got the vote in 1920, many of the nation's politicians hoped that would be the end of the crusade. But suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt held other ideas.
Realizing the ladies were unprepared for participation in the democratic process, Mrs. Catt proposed to her fellow members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association that a League of Women Voters be established to "finish the fight."
This year the national League, 150,000 members strong, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Advertiser talked to members and officers of the Hawaii chapter to find out why the League of Women Voters is considered one of the most respected of America's many organizations concerned with the conduct of government and public affairs.
This is the first of three articles on women in the League and their activities here.
By CORINNE SCOTT
Advertiser Staff Writer
Her Tuesday's not for ironing. Mrs. Arlen Scott has more important things to do.
Every Tuesday afternoon, this public-spirited dynamo plunks herself into the third seat, second row in the City Council chamber, scans her agenda and settles in for another session.
Alice Scott is there as an observer for the League of Women Voters. She records the action (or inaction) of the Council on issues of importance to the League.
"In League parlance I'm known as 'the silent one.' That means I'm supposed to keep a straight face at Council meetings and never open my mouth. Needless to say, it's sometimes frustrating to be so objective -- I have to put the agenda over my face to hide my expression." she said.
"And every once in a while I haul out my Charter to see if everybody knows what he should about its contents."
The City-County Charter in Mrs. Scott's black zippered portfolio is dog-eared for good reason. Along with other members of the League of Women Voters, she had a hand in its adoption.
"I joined the League in the early 50s when members were making the old Iwilei jail study," she said. (The League was a driving force in getting the Halawa facilities built.)
"But I really got my feet wet in the study and promotion of a new City-County Charter." said Mrs. Scott. The League had done two separate studies of city government. One culminated in the publication of "Honolulu Hale -- We Elect;" and the other in "Honolulu Hale --They Appoint."
These in-depth studies prompted the League to push for a new City Charter.
Mrs. Scott participated as a member of the League's speakers' bureau to educate voters and promote the Charier.
lost a bet
"That was the year I lost a bet to Sen. Dan Inouye -- he was a state senator then. I was so fired up about the job we were doing I bet him that the special election turnout to vote on the charter would be much higher than it, actually was. He won so I took him to lunch at the Outrigger."
The charter, adopted in 1959, includes several recommendations made by the League.
"Our jail study prompted us to push for inclusion of a medical-legal coroner's office, whereas the sheriff formerly had handled this function.
"We also favored the short ballot and the strong mayor type of government we have today. It's all spelled out in the Charter.
How do the council members feel above having an eagle eye from the League scrutinizing them session after session?
"Well, they're very tolerant. They even kid me. I was five or ten minutes late once and one of them said, 'Now we can get started.' Another time I came in late and one quipped, 'We'd already marked you absent.' "
For her part, Alice Scott feels that observing at City Hall is an interesting experience in group dynamics. She selected her seat so that she can see all the council members' faces and other physical reactions.
"I'd have to say the present council is a lot more alert and interesting than the last one," she said. "Observing them is kind of like reading a continued story -- you hate to miss a chapter."
If Mrs. Scott has to hold her peace at Council meetings, she makes up for that silence when the Legislature rolls into session.
wears two hats
For there she puts on hat No. 2 as legislative chairman of the State League of Women Voters. "That means I speak out for League-supported issues at the state government level."
"We lobby," she said matter-of-factly. "The League makes no bones about it. We consider our lobbying a constructive effort -- informative and educational. It's one of our reasons for being -- and we're not tax-exempt because of it.
"But we don't lobby off the tops of our heads," she insisted. "We stand behind issues we've studied thoroughly -- sometimes after years of research.
"Right now we have positions on ethics in government and the omnibus election law.
"The League lobbies only from consensus," she said. "For example, although we've knocked ourselves out on the City Council apportionment issue -- given it lots of study -- we haven't yet reached a consensus, so we can't speak up."
Mrs. Scott was an official League lobbyist at the Constitutional Convention two years ago, where she spoke for the League's position on lowering the voting age to 18.
Does League activity Interfere with Mrs. Scott's family life?
"Well, there are certainly days when my husband has asked, "What day do we work for the Scotts?" -- especially when the Legislature is in session with all its hearings.
"And I'm pretty used to his question, 'Have you looked in my closet lately?' meaning he's fresh out of clean shirts again. But altogether he's fairly understanding. His job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture takes him on frequent trips to the Neighbor Islands. so that leaves me quite a bit of freedom," she said.
Mrs. Scott, who came to the Islands from Minnesota in 1938, was director of Public Health Nursing for the State until her retirement three years ago.
busy on boards
She recently completed 15 years service to the American Cancer Society, and was a member of their national board. She was also president and on the board of the Hawaii League for Nursing.
"I'm an inveterate board member." she said, "I Just got myself on a condominium board, and I'm trying to figure out a way to get off.
We hate 82 residents in my condominium -- which means we have 82 gardeners, 82 janitors and -- you name it." She sighed, "I've never met so many people who have an opinion on how high (or low) the hedge should be trimmed."
"If people had that kind of interest in public affairs, we'd have it made. I feel that people should know more about what's going on in government. For every five per cent surtax bill passed -- which we all know about and grumble over -- there are hundreds of little bills passed that affect us and we never hear of them.
"The League of Women Voters is one of the best ways I know to keep myself informed," she said.
|Advertiser Photo by Charles 0kamura
Mrs. Arlen Scott, observer for the League of Women Voters at City Council meetings, whips out her copy of the Charter.
Tomorrow: A mod mother does her thing in the League.