Calvert’s League of Women Vot­ers turns 50 this year

League of Women Vot­ers of Calvert County cel­e­brates milestone an­niver­sary this year

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By SARAH FALLIN sfallin@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecSARAH

Born out of a book club in 1967, the League of Women Vot­ers of Calvert County cel­e­brates half a cen­tury this year. In Au­gust, the league gath­ered to cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary in the very place the idea was spouted, in a cabin in Sci­en­tists Cliffs in Port Repub­lic.

Sharon Bickel, who said she is “new” to the league, hav­ing been a mem­ber for eight years, said there was a pre­vi­ous Calvert County league that hadn’t thrived. The book club in Sci­en­tists Cliffs thought a league would come in handy in re­gards to a pro­posed amend­ment to the state con­sti­tu­tion.

The League of Women Vot­ers is a na­tional, state and county or­ga­ni­za­tion that orig­i­nally grew out of the suf­frage move­ment, Bickel said. Now, it’s a non­par­ti­san or­ga­ni­za­tion aimed at en­cour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand pol­icy is­sues and en­cour­ag­ing ed­u­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy. The league does not sup­port or op­pose candi- dates.

The use of “women” in the name of the group is a mis­nomer be­cause about 30 per­cent of the Calvert league is men. Any­one is wel­come to join the league, but it’s un­likely that “women” will be taken out of the name be­cause of the con­nec­tion of the League of Women Vot­ers na­tion­ally to the suf­frage move­ment, said Roberta Safer, first vice pres­i­dent.

Safer said voter ser­vice was the pri­mary fo­cus and the league did, and still does, a vot­ers’ guide. Be­fore the in­ter­net, the vot­ers’ guide was es­pe­cially cru­cial for in­form­ing vot­ers. Now, the league has a web­site for the vot­ers’ guide ma­te­ri­als.

The Calvert league has an ob­server corps for the Calvert County Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers meet­ings and Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ings. It is work­ing on form­ing an ob­server corps for the plan­ning com­mis­sion.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing voter in­for­ma­tion on­line, the league holds can­di­date fo­rums, helps reg­is­ter vot­ers and con­ducts stud­ies on lo­cal is­sues. The most re­cent study was on trans­parency in county gov­ern­ment.

Through­out the years, the league’s stud­ies and mem­bers have been the seed for many changes and fix­tures in Calvert County. Marie An­drews, one of the for­mer pres­i­dents of the league, who joined in 1977, said the league was her most im­por­tant con­nec­tion when she moved to the county.

Dur­ing her time in the league, in the wake of a league study on ed­u­ca­tion in Calvert, An­drews said the league and a lo­cal church worked with youth to help bring a movie theater to Calvert County.

“At least the kids thought they had ac­com­plished some­thing,” An­drews said. The Calvert Col­lab­o­ra­tive for Chil­dren and Youth, for­merly the Calvert Cru­sade for Chil­dren, also came out of a league study. And out of that group stemmed the Ed­ward T. Hall Aquatic Cen­ter and the Har­riet El­iz­a­beth Brown Com­mu­nity Cen­ter. Ad­di­tion­ally, Calvert Hospice’s early roots come out of a league study on men­tal health, and the lo­cal hous­ing author­ity’s ori­gins have roots in a league study on hous­ing.

More re­cently, the league has seen some de­vel­op­ments in light of its trans­parency study re­leased sev­eral years ago. Bickel said the county gov­ern­ment wasn’t happy with the study, but the com­mis­sion­ers still par­tic­i­pated in the league’s fundraiser event a year later.

An ex­tra bud­get town hall meet­ing ear­lier this month was part of what the league asked for in its trans­parency study, Safer said. Bickel ex­plained that the county bud­get starts in July but in­put didn’t usu­ally start un­til March when most things had al­ready been de­cided. The league sug­gested a public meet­ing at the be­gin­ning of the bud­get process.

“It seems to re­ally have caught on,” Bickel said.

Other resid­ual ef­fects of the trans­parency study in­clude the county pub­lish­ing its seal on all news­pa­per le­gal no­tices, the draft bud­get be­ing re­leased at least a week be­fore the public hear­ing and a per­ma­nent site se­cured for a com­mu­nity cen­ter in Prince Fred­er­ick.

“About 50 per­cent of what we asked for was done,” Bickel said.

Dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of the league’s 50th an­niver­sary Aug. 26, at­tended by about 30 peo­ple, speak­ers from many chap­ters of the league’s history shared and the event was at­tended by Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) and for­mer state se­na­tor Bernie Fowler.

Up next for the league is a fol­low-up study on the re­sponse to the trans­parency study, which will in­clude a fo­rum on the Public In­for­ma­tion Act and Open Meet­ings Act. Ad­di­tion­ally, the league will hold its an­nual leg­isla­tive evening from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tues­day, Nov. 14, at Calvert Pines Se­nior Cen­ter.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the league, in­clud­ing Mar­garet Dun­kle, pre­sented at the cel­e­bra­tion.


Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mile Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, prince Ge­orges) pre­sented a procla­ma­tion to the league. Roberta Safer is pic­tured on the right.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) and for­mer se­na­tor Bernie Fowler at­tended the 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the League of Women Vot­ers of Calvert County in Au­gust.

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