League of Women Voters

Lake Michigan Interleague Organization

2008-2009 Annual Meeting

October 10-11 2008


I served as the delegate from the League of Women Voters from the South Bend Area to the Lake Michigan Interleague Organization’s annual meeting, held this year in Chesterton, Indiana.  I attended the Business Meeting held on Saturday the 11th. 

Following adoption of the rules of the day, the minutes of the 2007 meeting and the Treasurer’s report, a proposed change of the bylaws to reflect changing the name of the organization to the “Lake Michigan League of Women Voters” was presented.  There was some discussion regarding whether the group’s bylaws could be changed before the change was approved by the National office.   The name change was approved, pending approval by the LWVUS.

The 2008-2009 Program was discussed and approved with areas of emphasis to include:

1)      As a member of the Healing our Water (HOW) Coalition, work to restore Great Lakes water quality, prevent and control non-native aquatic invasive species, clean up concentrated toxic pollution

2)      Work to pass Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act

3)      Support efforts to reduce use of pesticides

4)      Advocate for water conservation

5)      Address permitted discharges into the Great Lakes with goal to reduce discharged pollutants

6)      Monitor implementation of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement signed by all Great Lakes Governors, US Congress and President Bush

7)      Monitor progress of the Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Following nominations from the floor and presentation of the nominating committee, new officers were elected:

Co-Presidents: Judith Johnston and Jeannette Neagu

Vice President: Cheryl Chapman

Secretary: Hanano Anderson

Treasurer: Suzanne Dixon

Reports presented:

1)       Suzanne Dixon reported on the “Healing Our Waters Conference” held September 10-11 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The League was represented by members from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  The purpose of having the Great lake state leagues join the Coalition was to assist in the advocacy work on Federal Legislation regarding the Great Lakes.   The coalition has worked to protect the quantity of water in the Great Lakes and continues its efforts to protect the quality of water of this non-renewable resource.


A long-awaited bill on invasive species is on hold while the courts and Congress decide who should regulate ballast water from foreign vessels, the Coast Guard or the EPA.


The Coalition is seeking nominations for positions critical to the Great Lakes following this year’s election.  These include EPA administrators, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, Army Corps, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and International Joint Commission positions.  Members are asked to contact Chris Grubb with your nominations by October 28, 2008.


2)      Jeanette Neagu reported on the Great Lakes Day in Washington, DC during which League members met with Congressional Representatives and Senators from each of the Great Lake states. 


3)      Guest Speaker Kim Ferraro, Attorney, Executive Director of Legal Environmental Aid Foundation (LEAF), presented “Toxic Pollution Impacting the Great Lakes: What You Need to Know”.  Some alarming statistics: national annual average of exposure to toxins is 12# per year, for Hoosiers, it is 40# per year.  According to Forbes magazine, Indiana is the 2nd most polluted state.  States with the highest environmental standards have the highest economic performance.  The problem, according to Ms Ferraro, is that the public’s voice is not being heard.  She suggested getting on the EPA’s list of notices (e.g. water permitting issues for regional EPA offices) and enlist public interest lawyers such as herself (she works pro bono and is paid through grants) to exercise state statutes with respect to planning commissions as they make decisions regarding unchecked growth.  She related unchecked growth to the Tragedy of the Commons in which the environment must be protected in free market economies for the common good.

During the discussion following Ms. Ferraro’s presentation, I followed-up her point about lack of a public voice and noted that states with the worst pollution and worst economic standards also have the most restrictive ballot access laws.  I reported on my efforts to gain ballot access for the Green Party to give Hoosier voters another voice at the ballot box as well as in elected offices.  Not only are ballot access laws severely restrictive for parties and candidates other than Democrat or Republican, but votes cast for Green Party and other independent candidates were not counted in several Indiana counties, including St Joseph and Marion counties.  This information sent shock waves through the gathering whose non-partisan founding and continued mission is to enfranchise voters.

4)      Jeanette Neagu presented her Power Point presentation “What the League of Women Voters Can Do to Protect the Great Lakes”. One of her final slides listed the many organizations who are part of the Heal Our Waters coalition, including the National Wildlife Federation.  Missing, as noted by this writer, was the Indiana Wildlife Federation.  Jeanette also cited the many organizations to whom she has shown her presentation.  She had not yet presented to my local league in the South Bend area.  I told her I would ask my local to contact her to put her on the agenda for a future meeting.   I would also like to follow up with individuals I know within the Indiana Wildlife Federation about joining the HOW coalition.