Review of Activities 2014-15

October 5, 2015 Luncheon with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) regarding her Womens’ Empowerment book launch “Off the Sidelines”.

It was a whirlwind of activity as the League had only 3 weeks notice to plan and execute a lunch buffet and speaker program attended by almost 200 people at Wee Burn Country Club. We successfully partnered with Wee Burn, Barrett Bookstore, the Womens Campaign School at Yale and the local Dartmouth Alumni Group to pull off a very successful event. Special thanks to Arlene Tulacro, Shannon Silsby and new member Sarah Woodberry for their amazing efforts.

Financially, we planned to subsidize this event using up to $2000 of the previously dedicated program budget and included a hard copy of the book as part of the $50 luncheon fee. The actual subsidy used came in a few hundred dollars less. Future program planning and pricing is expected to break even. Use of PayPal for a timely, on-line RSVP and payment function was crucial.

Fall 2015 Voter Service Activities:

  • CT Constitution Amendment Referendum Question. At issue, Should the State Constitution be amended to allow legislators to consider adopting early voting measures?
    Our league had lengthy discussions about the confusing wording of the referendum question and whether to adopt a YES advocacy position as endorsed by the State League. Ultimately we voted to produce an educational but non-advocacy ad of our own. Nancy Cahoon took a leadership role in drafting the document and managing the process. The paid ad ran in the Darien Times, was published with our Voters Guide and visuals were included in the Candidates Night broadcast. The referendum failed.
  • October 19th, 4th US Congressional District debate between incumbent Jim Himes (D) and Dan Debicella (R) held at Wilton High School Auditorium. Along with other local leagues, Darien provided financial support, publicity and volunteers for this event.
  • October 21st, Darien Candidates Night. Nora McIlree masterfully led our annual Candidates Night which, this year featured State Senators and Representatives, a contested Board of Education race and several uncontested local official candidates. Kay Maxwell, former LWVUS and LWVCT President moderated. Thank you to Channel 79 who broadcast live and subsequently re-ran the program up to election day and to the many league volunteers who helped make this possible.
  • October 30th, publication of Voters Guide in “Darien Times” newspaper and posting on line to our website Marcia Meinerth and Mary Genco did yeomans’ work in soliciting and pulling together candidate questions and answers specific to each elected office. Our product is unedited and considered a vital source of electoral information by many. The State LWV gave us high kudos for the scope and quality of our work. Many thanks to the “Darien Times” for pro-bono publication, since we could not afford to publish this in hard copy on our own.

Other Fall Activity

  • October 8th Luncheon at the Weed Beach Paddle Hut. This picnic lunch for members and guests featured the screening of the Channel 79 DVD “Community Matters” with Gwen Mogenson, Molly Myers and Enid Oresman discussing the history of the League. Attendance was low and after covering a $200 space rental fee the $15/per person ticket price generated a slight financial loss.

Annual Holiday Party, December 5th.

Callie Sullivan hosted our almost 30 year holiday potluck party tradition. Once again, our intrepid group of willing and semi-talented league members pulled together a good natured musical program of political parody songs, ending with a holiday sing-a-long. This is not to be missed – many people consider it the highlight of the holiday party circuit.

January 13th, Legislative Coffee.

Many thanks to Joyce and Mike Critelli for hosting State Senators Bob Duff (D) and Carlo Leone (D) along with State Representative Terrie Wood (R) for our annual meeting with the legislators. Unfortunately, Representative William Tong (D) could not attend. Special thanks to Joyce Critelli, Laurie Williamson, Mary Genco, Martha Banks, Gwen Mogenson and Mary Flynn for developing questions

January 13th, Darien Housing Authority Tenant Commissioner Election.

Under governing legislation, The Darien Housing Authority asked the League, as an independent third party, to run a required tenant commissioner election. This election designates one tenant to represent both the newly expanded Allen O’Neill and Old Town Homes Senior Housing and was a contested election. While legislation suggests this arrangement, it provides little guidance as to the election logistics and requirements. Nancy Cahoon and Mary Genco did substantial research to develop operating policies and procedures that can now be used as precedent throughout the State. Also thank you to our members who volunteered as poll watchers in the two locations.

January membership reported to State and National.

Each year we are required to report our membership as of 1/31 to the State and National Leagues, which determines our next year per member dues requirement. We reported 124 members (1 short of our goal) making us the 3rd largest league in the State. Congratulations to Priscilla Wong and Betsy Shay for heading membership this year.

Finance Drive.

Adele Conniff headed our efforts to bring in over $3000 in funding that supports our local programs and initiatives. The bulk of our membership dues is paid out to State and National so Finance Drive support is crucial. We have been prudent fiscal managers and have a solid surplus in the bank so we are in much better financial shape than many local leagues. There has been discussion about combining membership renewal and Finance Drive solicitation since some people feel the timing/multiple ask is confusing. We will continue the discussion next year.

February 8th, Darien league sponsors the documentary “Thank you Mr. President”

This documentary featured the journalistic accomplishments of Helen Thomas, the longest serving White House reporter at the Darien Library. Free and open to the public. Thank you to Clara Sartori for coordinating the event.

February meeting: 10-year required review of LWVCT positions.

Positions up for review included Campaign Finance, Ethics, Land Use and Water Resources. After discussion, the Darien League voted to support the State League recommendations. It is noted, that since State League positions are developed after study and consensus, the positions are very broad and therefore generally noncontroversial.

March 18th Town Officials Lunch held at The Depot.

Thanks to Clara Sartori, Valerie Dodge and Susan Moore for coordinating our annual informal lunch featuring updates from our main town elected officials. Other than the First Selectman, our local government representatives are volunteers and they give of their personal time to come and give us an update on their issues and initiatives. Unfortunately, this year we had disappointing membership turnout. We need to do a better job at supporting our volunteer town officials.

March, DHS Voter Registration Drive.

Several League members volunteered to help the Town Registrars with a high school registration drive. Students are eligible to register if they will be 18 by the next election date and the outreach also provides contact info to encourage seniors who are off to college next year to understand the absentee ballot process. Roughly 150 students registered to vote, up 50% from last year’s drive. Thank you volunteers!

On-Going Heroes.

We have so many volunteers who handle on-going programs and responsibilities. Thanks to you all!

  • Food for Thought, Karla Coe Coordinator and Ann Ferris. Karla – thanks for all of your topic preparedness and Ann thanks for opening your house to host our meetings
  • Treasurer, Kate Larson (for life?) please?
  • Secretary, Mary Ellen Moore, best comprehensive minutes ever. That’s why we can’t replace you next year without a whole team.
  • Tech support and website, Deepika Saksena, Seriously without you, we are toast.
  • Nominating, Sue Okie, How can people say no? You’re magical at matching people to positions.
  • Hospitality, Valerie and Susan, thanks for handling all of the chaos. Molly and Betsy – thanks for your helpful experience and guidance.
  • Print PR, thank you to Joan Davis for her on-going work in drafting our newspaper coverage and getting good placement
  • Jack of All Trades, Mary Genco, There is nothing you haven’t done 150% more than I asked and I asked a lot. Thank you for your dedication to the League.

Observer Corps Light (continuing).

We have introduced a program to feature town elected officials/volunteers as subject matter experts at our monthly meetings. This has been met with great success. This year – special thanks to the Registrars of Voters; Kathy Hammell and John Visi, Martha Banks speaking on State Education Funding, Jan Raymonds chair of the Darien Housing Commission, educating us about the redevelopment of the Allen O’Neill and Old Town Homes Housing Developments and Carolyn Bayne, our State League Policy Development Chair for Natural Resources.

Volunteer of the Year – Carolyn Bayne!

A special level of thanks to Carolyn who has taken on the State League Policy Lead on Natural Resources in addition to being a very active and appreciated local league member. Her State responsibilities require tracking legislative developments and providing well researched advocacy positions regarding natural resource protection.

Government Guide.

Mary Genco and Susan Lehan worked on updating and revising our annual “Government Guide” publication, a comprehensive contact sheet for local, state and national elected officials. This is also published on our local league website. The information exists elsewhere but not in such a user friendly, comprehensive form and is deemed a very useful public service publication. The issue is that this project is extremely time consuming and the costs of hard copy publication are increasing. There is ongoing discussion about the cost/benefit of hard copy vs website distribution and the use of e-mail vs phone number contact information.

By-Law Revision.

A working group consisting of Enid Oresman, Gwen Mogenson, Kate Larson and Martha Banks met to review our existing by-laws, last amended in 2006, with a view to consider a Steering Committee structure in place of a President, 1st VP Voter Service and 2nd VP Program structure. Greenwich currently uses a 3 person Steering Committee structure where the Steering Committee members have dual responsibility for their functional responsibilities as well as defined overall league management responsibilities. The issue arose since the current President will be out of town for several months next year. After developing proposed by-law changes, the working group did not feel that a change to a steering committee change was warranted. The by-law changes will be voted at the June 2015 Darien League Annual Meeting.

Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

By legislation, the 2006 Darien Town Plan must be updated and approved by 2016 and there is a two year development schedule. The Darien League took a leadership role in developing the 2006 plan, sponsoring public input meetings. That responsibility has largely been assumed by Town Government officials. We put out a request to form a League study group on this issue but it was met with little interest. Some individual League members are participating on their own.

State Budget Tracking.

Several bi-partisan members are concerned about the increasingly fragile condition of the CT economy related to budgetary practices including deficit spending, debt financing for operating costs, unfunded obligations for debt service and pensions, and taxation issues. We will continue to track these issues, update our League and welcome other members to participate in the discussion.