© 1999 - 2005 League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham and
League of Women Voters of the United States

The Voter

November 2005

A Publication of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham.
Re-formatted here for web publication with index and links added. Web Editor's navigational notes added in [bracketed italics].


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A Note from the President

Yvonne Brakefield and Elaine WittMany thanks to Elaine Witt, formerly with The Birmingham Post Herald, for her remarks to LWVGB during our October membership meeting. Highlights of the presentation on her career as a local journalist are included in this VOTER. Ms. Witt enlightened Birmingham readers for eighteen years and will surely be missed! We wish her every success in her new endeavors.

On November 1st, Nancy Ekberg, Dot Baker, Betty Likis and I attended the 60th anniversary celebration of theUnited Nations, hosted by the Birmingham Chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA) - USA. Ambassador William H. Lewis, President and CEO of UNA-USA presented his thoughts on UN reforms in the areas of Leadership and Management Restructure, Improved Relationships with the United States, Peace and Security, and Human Rights. His message clarified the need for Member States to work together to make the UN a useful instrument for the all people and left the audience with hope that these reforms will help to strengthen our world.

Mark your calendars to attend the November Membership Meeting and December Holiday Luncheon, featuring Doris Powell, chair of Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, and Dr. Jay McDonald, M.D., respectively. Details on these meetings and other points of interest are included in this month's VOTER publication.

I wish each of you a peaceful Holiday Season.

-- Yvonne

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LWVGB November Meeting
to Feature

Doris Powell,
Chair, Birmingham-Jefferson
Transit Authority

Thursday, November 17th, 6:00 P.M.

Homewood Library, Room 116
1721 Oxmoor Road

Make plans to attend our November membership meeting at the Homewood Library. Doris Powell, recently appointed chair of the Birmingham-Jefferson Transit Authority, will recount her first two months on the job and share her vision for the future of public transit in our area.

Invite a friend to attend!

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State Legislative Study - Let's Do It!

The State League's study of the Alabama Legislature will conclude early in 2006 when members across the state review and discuss the collected data and then answer consensus questions formulated by the Study Committee and the state board.

Here in Birmingham we will have two meetings to do our part of the work. Both our January 26th and February 23rd membership meetings will be devoted to this task

Briefing materials will be sent to members who receive a paper Voter immediately after the holidays. A second set of information will be sent Feb. 1st. Members receiving the newsletter electronically can access the information at www.lwval.org/legstudy/members/. Access to this link requires the same username/password combination as the "For Members" section of the LWVAL website. Please contact Jean Johnson at jjohnson@brooknet.com or 870-3063 if you need login assistance.

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December Holiday Luncheon

Our annual Holiday luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 3rd at The Stix Restaurant outside the Galleria Mall in Hoover. Dr. Jay McDonald, M.D., will be our guest speaker and will present "Survival on the Mission to Mars: Columbus Had It Easy".

Cost of the meal is $15.00 per person and a cash bar will be available. Attendees will have a varied choice of menu items, including chicken, beef, shrimp, and scallops. Please fill out the
reservation form and mail to Yvonne Brakefield by Wednesday, November 30th.

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama Consensus Policy

Our January and February unit meetings will be devoted to reaching consensus on the Legislative Study currently being conducted by LWVAL. Sarah McDonald and Mary Lynn Bates will lead the debate locally. This is an introduction to the process for new members.

Consensus, as explained in the 2002 edition of In League, "is the technique most often used in the League for reaching member agreement. It is a process whereby members participate in a group discussion of an issue. The 'consensus' reached by members through group discussion is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall 'sense of the group' as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions" (p 10-58)

The State Board determines what constitutes consensus. It considers whether local Leagues report complete member agreement, fairly general agreement or divergent points of view.

Local Leagues are notified in advance when consensus is due. Any kind of consensus requires that members of local Leagues receive a timetable for the study, background materials, and a deadline for reaching consensus. This is part of the job of the state program chairperson or person designated by the State Board to chair the consensus item.

Consensus questions are drafted by representatives of the consensus resource committee and others who can pinpoint areas for consideration and action. The State Board approves all consensus questions. The questions should be clear to the membership, phrased for usable answers, provide a yardstick for judgment, and a framework for action. Questions must be objective and reasonably brief. The questions should be based on the resource material that was used in the study and cover areas that can lead to action. Do not aim consensus questions toward action on specific bills; instead make them general enough to apply over a period of time and changing circumstances.

Sometimes consensus on one or more questions is not reached. This may happen when an insufficient number of members are concerned with the issue or when there is too much basic disagreement among members. In any case, a statement of alternative points of view is included in the report. If no consensus is reached, that fact is reported.

Reporting Consensus

A consensus report prepared by a local board for the State Board includes the following:

  • The response sheet (if provided) with the consensus questions, completed to show how opinions were distributed (if such a sheet has been provided).
  • A brief statement of the consensus position, if one has been reached, and
  • A brief statement of alternative points of view expressed by members who did not agree with the consensus position.


  • A brief statement explaining that no consensus could be reached.

In order for a local consensus report to be considered, it must be received by the deadline set by the State Board.

Adopted 12-2-95
Amended 7-26-97
Amended 10-7-05

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Did you know?

  • …U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, cancelled a fundraiser for Tom Delay after the Texas Congressman was indicted. The fundraiser, co hosted by all five Republican members of Alabama's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, was scheduled for Monday, October 10. The money raised at the event was intended to go toward DeLay's reelection campaign in Texas. All five Alabama Republican representatives have accepted contributions from DeLay's political action committee in the past.

  • …Alabama has the ninth worst income gap in the nation when comparing income of the top 20% and bottom 20% of its population. This and other income statistics are available from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at www.cbpp.org.

  • …Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Wayman Shriver Jr. plans to hire a firm to study reasons for declining enrollment in city schools. The system lost 1,700 students last year and expects to lose approximately the same number this year.

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Observer Corp

Jefferson County Commission

An engineering company report cited flaws in wall design as the cause of flooding that disabled the new Valley Creek pumping station last April. The structural engineer for the $52 million project, F.W. Dougherty Engineering, was indicted last July on federal bribery charges related to work on county sewer projects. Commissioner Gary White said repairs to will cost up to $10 million in addition to the $148,000 paid to another firm to determine the cause of the flooding. The county attorney said this was a preliminary report and it is too early to determine who should pay for the repairs.

JCC president Larry Langford has announced a $5 million program to pay to certify every teacher in all 12 Jefferson County school districts.

Langford, Birmingham mayor Bernard Kincaid and UAB president Carol Garrison have joined with the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce to develop a "branding" message and campaign. Early discussions focused on ideas for a "Magic City" theme.

Jefferson County, the City of Birmingham and the State of Alabama have each pledged $125,000 to hire workers to oversee boarding homes. The home inspection program, administered by the Jefferson County Health Department, was threatened by budget cuts. Many residents of the county's boarding homes are elderly, disabled or mentally ill. The end of inspections would have left these residents vulnerable to unscrupulous or illegal boarding home operators.

Birmingham Water Works Board

In its November 1 meeting, the Alabama Public Service Commission voted 2-1 against regulating the Birmingham Water Works Board. This means the five-member board appointed by the Birmingham City Council will continue to set the rates for 750,000 customers in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Walker and St. Clair counties. A previously announced 8.75 percent rate hike will take effect January 1.

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Elaine Witt Recalls Eighteen Years at the Birmingham Post Herald

Elaine Witt was the featured speaker at the October LWVGB membership meeting. She spoke of her eighteen years as a local reporter and answered a barrage of questions from the audience.

When Ms. Witt came to work at the Post Herald in 1987, it was Birmingham's morning newspaper with a daily circulation of 70,000. When it stopped publishing a few weeks ago, its circulation had dropped to 7,000. In 1996, The Birmingham News, which owned the printing presses, took over the morning publication slot and the PH shifted to afternoons. It focused on second-day angles to news stories and hired good writers for feature articles. Witt became a front-page columnist in 1998, where she, "learned the awesome responsibility of writing opinions." She had freedom in this role and states that her only regrets are the untold stories.

When speaking of the greatest problems facing Greater Birmingham, Witt cites fragmented local governments. Competition for sales taxes causes cities to "lure Wal-Mart," creating sprawl and blight in vacated areas. She wonders if the city center can hold together with declining school enrollments.

Ms. Witt said her career with the Post Herald was "transformational." She does not plan to pursue another job in print journalism. We will miss her thoughtful columns and the Post Herald's voice in our community.

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About the Voter:

The LWVGB Voter is a publication of the League of Women Voter of Greater Birmingham.

Beverly Nelson, Editor
Email: beenel@bellsouth.net

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November 17th
LWVGB Monthly Membership Meeting
Doris Powell, BJC Transit Authority, Speaker
Homewood Library, Room 116
1721 Oxmoor Road [map]
6:00 PM
December 3rd
LWVGBBHoliday Luncheon
Dr. Jay McDonald, M.D., Speaker
Stix Restaurant
3250 Galleria Circle, Hoover [map]
$15 per person
[Print reservation form]
11:30 AM
January 4th
LWVGB Board of Directors Meeting
Unitarian Universalist Church
4300 Hampton Heights Drive [map]
6:00 PM
January 26th
January Membership Meeting
Alabama Legislative Study and Consensus – Part 1
Homewood Library, Room 116
1721 Oxmoor Road [map]
6:00 PM

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