Making Democracy Work

News & News Releases

Check here for press releases, League news or updates on current events

League Announces Forum Schedule 2018

League Announces October 2018 Candidate Election Forum Schedule

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties has announced a schedule of three pre-election candidate forums. Questions will be taken from the League as well as from the audience at these events.

Three Oaks

Two nonpartisan forums will be held on Tuesday, October 9, as a "double feature." From 6:30 to 7:30pm, the six candidates for the office of Three Oaks Village Trustee will answer questions in a fast-paced format. On Nov. 6, voters will elect three of the six to hold the office of Village Trustee. Candidates who will participate are Dustin Blaszczyk, Steve Graziano, Nick LaFlex, Colleen Nyquist, and Becky Thomas. Candidate John Kramer has declined the League's invitation to participate.

Then at 7:45pm, the two candidates for Three Oaks Village President, Tom Flint and David Grosse, will debate. All the action will be at the Three Oaks Elementary School, 100 Oak St, Three Oaks, Michigan.

Michigan House District 59

This debate will be held at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 18, at the Southwest Michigan College Conference Center West, Dowagiac, MI. This event features the race between incumbent Aaron Miller (R) and challenger Dennis Smith (D) to represent Michigan House District 59 which includes the entirety of St. Joseph County and part of Cass County including the city of Dowagiac, and the townships of Calvin, Jefferson, La Grange, Marcellus, Mason, Newberg, Penn, Pokagon, Porter, Volinia, and Wayne.

All events are open to the public and will be videotaped for broadcast presentation on the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties' YouTube channel.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the active and informed participation of citizens in government. The League has a long history of sponsoring high quality candidate forums designed to provide information to the voting public.

Visit the Berrien and Cass Counties League website lwvbcc.org for more information and late-breaking news.

###

Voter Information Event at Benton Harbor Arts and Culture Center

From 1:00 until 3:00 p.m. Saturday, October 20, LWVBCC and several other nonpartisan community groups will provide an opportunity for voters to discuss issues of interest to them in the upcoming election, including the statewide ballot proposals. The discussion will be at the Benton Harbor Arts & Culture Center, 275 Pipestone Avenue.
Co-sponsors of the event are the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Voters Not Politicians, the OutCenter, and Berrien Unitarian Universalist Fellowship's Social Justice Committee.
Hot dogs and other refreshments will be provided.

Reflection by a New Member

I was one of those people. I didn't decide not to vote. It's just that when it came time to vote, I never had confidence that I understood who was running, what they were running for and what any of it meant for me.
My vote seemed so insignificant among the millions of others. I also suffer from anxiety, so for a very long time, I didn't read the news. I happily went about my life in the dark about anything that didn't happen on my front porch or that didn't impact me personally. I was very happy being insulated from the news. I had no political insight.
I'm not proud of this fact. I never told anyone. It was embarrassing. I knew that people in other countries die for the right to vote. Women fought long and hard to get the right to vote. I was shirking my civic duty. I'm a professional, well-educated woman, but I buried my head in the sand when it came to our government.
The election of 2016 woke me up. I knew so little about our government and our elections. The world was coming apart at the seams. Friends were not speaking to each other. My family members were at odds. Fear was rampant, and Facebook was no longer a safe place to be. This election seemed to have an importance to others that I could not fathom. I began to pay attention. For the first time in a long time, I studied the candidates and I voted. I was proud to be an American and to cast my vote.
I learned about the electoral college. I listened to podcasts that provided background on the events in the news. I saw the content from my Civics class come to life. I read a biography of Richard Nixon and listened to some podcasts about past Presidents. I realized that I'd been missing out on a lot of interesting material that had a clear impact on my life. I was fascinated with the U.S. Constitution. What's more, the people I talked to were "waking up" too. This was a time of great importance in our country, and I wanted to be a part of it. I felt - and still do feel - like I am living in interesting times.
I've been wanting to get involved, and I am an educator. I know there are others like me who secretly abdicated their duty. We all have reasons for learning more, and I'm thrilled there are so many places today to get information. Healing the divide in our country is important, so I joined the non-partisan League of Women Voters. We each - conservative and progressive - have something to give, and now is the time to show up and be counted. I want to be a part of that. -- Sharon King

Ballot Proposals to be Explored

Statewide Ballot Proposals: What Are They? What Will They Do?

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties will host an educational forum Thursday, October 11, exploring the statewide ballot proposals that will be on every Michigan voter's ballot November 6. The session will be held at the Berrien RESA Conference Center, 711 Saint Joseph Avenue in Berrien Springs at 6:30 p.m. The League's presentation will include information on three proposals: to legalize marijuana, to establish a citizens' redistricting committee, and to secure elections and voting rights. The presentation will allow voters to learn more about the proposals and discuss the pros and cons of each. Leading the discussion will be Paula Manley, a member of the Board of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. She is a member and past president of the League of Women Voters of the Kalamazoo Area. This Townhall is open to the public and will be videotaped for broadcast presentation on the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties' YouTube channel.

About the League
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the active and informed participation of citizens in government. The League has a long history of sponsoring high quality candidate forums designed to provide information to the voting public.
For more information on this Townhall and other League activities, contact John Ripley, Communications Coordinator and Voter Service Co-Chair, at 847-363-1179. Visit the Berrien and Cass Counties League website lwvbcc.org.
###

SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS' FORUM AND DISCUSSION OF MAJOR ISSUES FACING LOCAL PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties will host a public forum among local school superintendents, April 25, which will target the major issues facing public education in Berrien and Cass County today. The 6:30 p.m. meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Berrien RESA Conference Center in Berrien Springs, Mich. The superintendents will share their views with each other and with the public. Questions will also be solicited from the audience. Moderating the session will be League member Elizabeth Ennis. Shane Peters, Superintendent, Bridgman Public Schools, is currently assembling a panel of top school administrators from Berrien and Cass Counties aimed at reviewing and discussing the concerns and strengths of the schools they lead. Few institutions are of greater importance to communities than their schools. All too frequently, education remains the province of the professionals-- the administrators, teachers, and support staff-- who make the system work. Yet, no matter how good a job they do, they want and welcome input from the public. This forum will target that situation. This event has been scheduled with two other important dates in mind: May 8 and July 24. May 8 is the date on which voters in Berrien County school districts in Berrien Springs, Coloma, Lakeshore, Watervliet, and Dowagiac school districts and Cass County school districts in Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, and White Pigeon will cast ballots to approve or reject millage or bonding measures. And July 24 is the date by which candidates who wish to run for school boards in November need to file an Affidavit of Identity and a nonpartisan nominating petition.  Location: Berrien RESA Conference Center, 711 St. Joseph Ave., Berrien Springs, Michigan, (269) 471-7725. This event is free and open to the public. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

LEAGUE ANNOUNCES EXAMINATION AND CONSENSUS MEETING ON AGRICULTURAL AND SEASONAL WORKER DRIVER'S LICENSES AND ID CARDS

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties will host a public forum and discussion on the issue of allowing seasonal and agricultural workers to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain an identification card regardless of immigration status.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held on Wednesday, March 21, at 1:00 p.m. in the Community Room at the Niles District Library in Niles, Michigan. The public is invited to bring questions and be ready for an opportunity to express viewpoints as members of the League discuss this issue from the inside and out.

The League will welcome 78 th House District Dave Pagel who will participate from Lansing by telephone due to Michigan legislature being in session later in the day. Rep. Pagel is the author of Michigan HB-4795 which is directly concerned with the means for providing "for an official personal Identification card" to undocumented persons under certain circumstances.

Also on the program will be Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey; Theresa Hendricks, Executive Director of Migrant Legal Aid in Grand Rapids; and a representative from the Berrien County Farm Bureau, to provide other perspectives on this multi-faceted issue.

Following this public session, a League member panel will analyze the consensus responses from League members, and look for areas of member understanding and agreement. Then using this information, along with information from other Michigan Leagues, at the state level the League of Women Voters of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan, will create a revised position statement for its members which could change the Michigan League's position from Michigan "Should allow a lawfully present, qualifying person to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain identification card" to "Should allow a person to apply for or secure and renew a driver's license or obtain an identification card regardless of immigration status."

Location: Niles District Library: 620 E. Main St., Niles, Michigan, (269) 683-8545 March 21, 2018 at Niles District Library, 1:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. More information is available on the LWVBCC website at http://www.lwvbcc.org.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Hunger as a Health Issue

LEAGUE TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING ON HUNGER IN SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

Food on the table three times a day--at least if we want it. That's a choice most Americans take for granted. But some--even in such a bountiful agricultural area as Berrien and Cass Counties--don't always have a choice about what to eat. The consequences can be dire.
At noon on February 21, League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties (LWVBCC) member Linda Strohl will focus on hunger in our area, whom it impacts, what those impacts are, how it is being addressed now, and current funding issues (including governmental sources). Strohl is Executive Director of Senior Nutrition Services / Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan and a member of the Berrien County Board of Health.
All members of LWVBCC and interested people who are not members, as well, are encouraged to attend.

Public Invited. Special event--noon Wednesday, February 21 Location: Conference room, Berrien County Health Department, 2149 East Napier, Benton Harbor (just east of I-94 exit 30)

"Invasive Species" Luncheon

Sept. 13 Luncheon: Investigation of Invasive Species

Japanese knotweed, a non-native plant that can grow up to 10 feet t all, will be the subject of our September 13 noon luncheon at Coach's Bar & Grill, 2528 Glenlord Road in Stevensville (just west of Red Arrow Highway).

Our speaker will be Rubia Jasinevicius, a member of the Board of the International Friendship Gardens in Michigan City who is an expert on this invasive plant. She will focus on how to recognize the plant, the threat it poses, and efforts to control it. There will be an opportunity for questions at the conclusion of her talk.

This is a subject of current interest in our area. A front-page story in the August 31 Herald-Palladium reported an infestation of Japanese knotweed along Willow Creek in Benton Township that is causing significant erosion, with potential impact on a waterway that leads to the St. Joseph River and then into Lake Michigan.

If you plan to attend, please contact Board Member Donna Dutton by September 6 either by email at donnadutton95@yahoo.com or by calling her at 269-469- 9763. We hope you can make it.

Special Event! Meet Judge Charles LaSata

Special Event!

Judge Charles LaSata October 5 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

If you haven't already marked your calendar, please do so now: Judge Charles LaSata, who has been a Berrien County Circuit Court Judge for the past 13 years, will be visiting and speaking to us at Berrien RESA, Berrien Springs. His topic is "Specialty Courts in Berrien County."

Judge LaSata has overseen the four special courts that serve this county including "Swift and Sure" and a specialized domestic violence court.

To learn about these two and the others over which he presides, join us.

60th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Celebration

The League held its 60th Anniversary Gala Celebration and Annual Dinner Meeting on June 15 at Sarett Nature Center from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. 

Guests arrived early and enjoyed walking the nature trails as guests of Sarett. 

Guests were honored for their Contributions to Participation in Community: The Pokagon Fund Calling All Colors All God's Children Community Choir Members of the choir ended the evening with songs celebrating the evening's theme: PARTICIPATION AND COMMUNITY.

Taste-tested, 5-Star Menu. $30 per person.  

4 Voter Information Forums Popular with Citizens

The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties held four live, public candidate forums on two nights in one week in October. These events gave voters a unique opportunity to evaluate the candidates of three state legislative districts in Berrien and Cass Counties and Cass County circuit judge and Niles mayor.

On Monday, October 10, Cass County 43rd Circuit Judge candidates Mark Herman and Scott Teter faced off in a forum and were followed by Michigan House 59th District candidates Carol Higgins (D) and Aaron Miller (R) at the Southwestern Michigan College, Dowagiac Campus. The District 59 video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPdaZmtUMuY and the Judicial debate can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4Q1RcJJnkM.

On Thursday, October 13, the two Michigan House 78th District Candidates Dave Pagel (R) and Dean Hill (D) and the two Michigan House 79th District candidates Kim LaSata (R) and Marletta Seats (D) met in a forum.

The Berrien RESA Conference Center in Berrien Springs hosted this event. Dave Pagel is the incumbent candidate in the 78th District being challenged by Dean Hill, and Ms. LaSata and Ms. Seats are vying for Al Pscholka's 79th District House seat vacated due to term limits. This video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JszbeDoOszc

Also, on Thursday, October 13, the Niles Mayoral Candidates Robert Durm and Nick Shelton debated at the Niles District Library. You can see this debate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8jt65gV8Xk.

The LWVBCC understands the importance of voters actually watching the candidates answer issue questions in an unscripted setting. Videos of past debates and forums can be viewed here http://lwvbcc.org/Videos.html.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, go to the League's website http://www.lwvbcc.org.

League of Women Voters Redistricting "Town Halls"

"Redistricting in Michigan: Should Politicians Choose Their Voters, or Voters their Politicians?"

The League of Women Voters will host over 30 Town Halls to educate the public on the importance of redistricting. Their presentation will explore how legislative lines are drawn in Michigan, who draws them and why it is a critically important question for those concerned about fair representation.

"In Michigan the district lines are drawn by elected officials in the legislature, effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters, rather than voters their elected leaders," said Judy Karandjeff, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. "This system gives the political party in power at the time a tremendous advantage but is this the best system for voters? Our Town Halls will explore central questions, such as: What are the consequences of partisan drawn districts that favor one party over another? Is there a better and fairer way to do this? What are the alternatives?"

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on Arizona's Independent Restricting Commission said there is an alternative and that citizens, not just politicians, have the right to decide how Congressional district lines are drawn. The decision has grabbed the public's attention. Some have asked if Michigan, like Arizona, should use an independent commission to draw the lines, not only for the Congressional Districts, but for the State House and Senate, as well. This alternative and others will be explored in-depth at the town hall.

"Government is supposed to of, by and for the people, but more and more it seems to ordinary voters that their voices are not being heard and that our elected leaders are becoming more extreme, less compromising and more disconnected from a public they are supposed to serve," said President Karandjeff. "Instead, special interests and lobbyists seem to get the attention of our elected leaders. We need to ask fundamental questions about why this is happening and whether allowing politicians to draw their own districts contributes to the problem." A complete list of Town Halls by date and location can be found on the League of Women Voters website at http://www.lwvmi.org. The events are free and open to the public. All are invited to attend.

Updated information at http://www.lwvmi.org/

Lunch at Lakeland

Luncheon at Lakeland Hospital on the subjects of "Pain Management and Opioides."

There is a new Pavilion being built at Lakeland now, and we will hear an update on this new project. The parking situation is not good.and will not be good for another four years. Any members needing handicap accessibility can park on campus. Lakeland is making arrangements for alternative parking for us with shuttle service to the hospital. A shuttle service will pick us up beginning at 11:20 at Cedarwood Medical Center, 820 Lester Avenue. Please park in the lot and wait underneath the building overhang for pick up. The shuttle will come at approximately 11:20, 11:30, and 11:40. We will be dropped off at the corner by the parking garage. That same shuttle will take us back beginning about 1:15pm.

Our arrival time for the luncheon should begin at 11:15. Lunch will be provided at 11:40. Dr Hamel and other doctors will give their presentation from 12:45 to 1:30 and then allow time for Q&A. Space is limited to 80.

Our thanks to Lakeland for extending this wonderful opportunity to us. RSVP to donnadutton95@yahoo.com

Lunch with Berrien County's New Public Defender

New Berrien County Chief Public Defender Carl Macpherson says he's working harder than he ever has in his life. Macpherson discussed Berrien County's criminal justice system with us during a luncheon set for March 16 at noon at Coaches Restaurant in Stevensville.

Macpherson was hired last fall as the county's first public defender. In late November and early December, he interviewed and added staff so that by Dec.12 eight lawyers, two legal secretaries, an office manager and an investigator were in place. To hear more about this highly important job function in Berrien County and how it fits with our justice system, view our video.

Macpherson spoke at Coaches Restaurant, 2528 Glenlord Rd, Stevensville, MI 49127. Watch a video of his presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_vtStUeYf0

Berrien County Recycling Events

Berrien County offers many opportunities for residents to recycle hazardous materials, electronics, tires and unneeded medications. 1 For details visit the county website or e-mailrecycling coordinator Jill Adams.