Past Programs 2006-2007

June 14, 2007

Earthways Center   Celebrate Sustainability 

At this party for members and guests, we had ample opportunity to explore the EarthWays Center and its gardens, located around the corner from the Fox Theater in the Grand Arts Center district. The Center, a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden, is located in a beautiful century-old Victorian residence that has been renovated as a showcase of energy and resource efficiency.
May 10, 2007

First Annual Meeting

At the May 10 Annual Meeting of Women’s Voices we celebrated two historic happenings. We had our first ever elections, with all paid members present voting, and we presented our first annual Special Awards to Outstanding Members.Our leadership for 2007-2008 includes:

  • Barbara Finch, President. Our dynamic leader will continue for 2 years!
  • Tresa McCallie, Vice-President. She has been on our Advisory Board.
  • Joanne Kelly, Secretary. She is one of the four founders.
  • Mary Clemons, Treasurer. She continues an appointed position.

Board of Directors for two-year terms are:

  • Chery Green. She has been an Advisor and is our Webmaster.
  • Mary Ann Tipton. She is new to a leadership position with WV.

One-year Board of Directors members are:

  • Julie Healey. She has helped plan our Shopping for Justice event.
  • Barbara Richter. She has been active on the Health Care Focus Group.

Our Special Awards to Outstanding Members went to:

  • Jane Bogetto, Cynthia Kramer, and Bev White who all ran for the Missouri House of Representatives in 2006. Our Mistress of Ceremonies, Suzanne Meyer, commended them for their courage in running excellent campaigns in this divisive atamosphere.
  • Yaphett El-Amin, who ran for the Missouri Senate in 2006, and sacrificed her House seat to do so.
  • Cynthia Holmes, who wrote a pro bono, friend-of-the-court brief in defense of the ACLU’s opposition to the Missouri Voter ID law. That piece of legislation was subsequently found unconstitutional.
  • Jean Lopez, graphic designer, who is responsible for our Women’s Voices logo, which depicts our mission so well.
  • Chery Green, who designed and maintains our excellent website which is the envy of other not-for-profits. Chery also used her technological skills to assist candidates Jane Bogetto and Bev White.
  • Amy Smoucha was named the Women’s Voices Humanitarian of the Year. Amy’s determination to restore Medicaid cuts to the state budget, her work with our Health Care Focus Group, and her professional work with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and Jobs with Justice make her an inspiration to our entire membership.

Our meeting concluded with Remarks from President Barb Finch.

Women’s Voices will soon launch our third year of existence with the example of these outstanding members and the leadership of our fine new officers. We welcome all members and subscribers aboard.

 

April 12, 2007

Poverty in America

Mark Rank, one of America’s  foremost experts on issues of poverty, inequality, and social justice, laid out several statistics that elicited collective gasps from the large audience of Women’s Voicers and guests who gathered to hear him at the Ethical Society, our new home for monthly meetings.One was that about 60% of all Americans will experience poverty for at least a year sometime between the ages of 20 and 75. Another was that two-thirds of all Americans will use one of the country’s means- tested welfare programs, like Medicaid or Food Stamps, at some time during their lives. And a third was that as the rate of poverty among the elderly has declined dramatically in the last 40 years, from 35% in the 60’s to just over 10% now, the rate among children has been steadily climbing, so that kids are now more likely to be poor than any other age group in America.Rank, who holds the Herbert S. Hadley Professorship of Social Welfare at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, believes that the responsibility for America’s poverty rate, which is the highest in the developed world, lies squarely with the country’s structural failings, rather than with individual fault.We tend to point to an individual’s problems and hold him responsible. But the reality is that the system doesn’t have enough capacity to support us all.Rank uses the analogy of a game of musical chairs, in which there are 10 players but only eight chairs. When the music stops, it’s inevitable that two people will lose out, not because the players are at fault, but because the structure is not big enough to accommodate their basic needs.To correct this inherently flawed system will require a change in public attitude, Rank feels. Some of this will come from simple self- interest, a recognition that we’re putting our money on the back end of the problem. And some will come from return to values that have been part of this nation since its inception, like shared responsibility, concern for the least fortunate, and liberty, justice and equality for all.
March 8, 2007

With liberty and justice for all?

Hollow words, according to the three speakers who shared their views on Missouri’s death penalty at our March meeting. Susan McGraugh, Assistant Clinical Professor at St. Louis University School of Law, Rose Rita Huelsmann, SSND, Volunteer Services Coordinator for Criminal Justice Ministry at St. Vincent de Paul, and Diana Oleskevich, Justice Coordinator at Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, spoke passionately about their belief that the death penalty is an arbitrary, broken system that should be abolished.
The speakers cited numerous studies showing glaring disparities in the system.

“Throughout the country, a black man is much more likely to get the death penalty than a white for a similar crime,” said McGraugh. On a local level, she reported the disparity between the prosecutorial “fervor” of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCullough and his counterpart in the city, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. “McCullough uses his discretion in calling for the death penalty far more often than Joyce,” she said. “And Joyce always gives someone who’s been charged with the death penalty the opportunity of taking life without parole. McCullough never offers this. Punishment shouldn’t depend on where you live.”

Urban/rural disparities are huge, too. “Rural counties can’t afford the costs of a capital case,” said Oleskevich, “so the death penalty is rarely sought in these areas of the state.

And there are simply no people of wealth on death row, highlighting the difference that highly-skilled, experienced attorneys can make to a trial.”

Even if the system could be administered with total fairness, an impossible goal they believe, all three women would still oppose its use. “Killing again just creates more victims,” Huelsmann said, “and it doesn’t bring closure. If we believe in the human ability to change, which we see certainly in ourselves throughout our lives, we have no right to deny others this possibility.”

Abolishment is a long-term goal of all three. In the meantime, they urged Women’s Voices to work toward passage of pending legislation placing a three-year moratorium on the death penalty in Missouri and establishing a commission to study it. For more information, visit www.moabolition.org.

February 8, 2007

A Liberal Religious Leader Speaks Out

When Dr. Michael Kinnamon, The Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission, Peace and Ecumenical Studies at Eden Theological Seminary, began his remarks to the intrepid crowd that had gathered on a bitterly cold night to hear his message about liberal religious values, there was not an empty seat in the house.

He began his comments with a compliment for Women’s Voices. “I very much like your approach,” he said. “I like the fact that you’re not just working for social justice for women, but that you are women working for social justice for all.”

Then, in answer to questions raised by the program’s title, “Where are the liberal religious leaders of today? What are they talking about?” Kinnamon laid out seven principles he feels all liberal religious people hold in common and can use as they work together toward a better world.

  1. Intellectual, spiritual humility is a prime religious value. God is God, and we aren’t!
  2. Liberals bring the lessons of science and experience into their dialogues. God is still speaking.
  3. Liberals believe that God is honored less by the purity of our religious beliefs than by our love for our neighbors.
  4. All of creation is interdependent. Within this unity, however, is astonishing diversity. Liberals value this diversity, especially within the human family. “One of the biggest challenges, though,” warns Kinnamon, “is the intersection of plurality and evil. We must love the enemies of social justice, while we continue to stand firm against their positions.”
  5. Liberals refuse to split the world into “them” and “us.”
  6. God has a preference for the poor, the weak, the sick. This tells us where the God of history is always at work – on the margins.
  7. The healing of this world is God’s purpose.

During the question and answer period following his remarks, Kinnamon was asked what he would say to George Bush were he given an opportunity to speak with him.

“I guess I’d focus on the issue of human interdependence,” he said, “and the idea that our security is inseparable from the security of all other peoples on earth. When our leaders believe that they alone have purity of belief, it’s a way of boundary keeping, of separating the world into “us” and “them.” That’s the wrong way to go about building world peace.”

Kinnamon was also asked about the difficulty of loving our enemies. Isn’t this just something that’s impossible for flawed humans to do? Kinnamon doesn’t think so, if “love” is interpreted not just as affection, but as action. “In this sense,” he explained, “love is defined as an act of will. And that’s something we can control.”

January 11, 2007

Paths to Universal Health Insurance: Is Massachusetts a Map for Missouri?

A large crowd of Women’s Voicers listened intently as Sidney Watson, Professor of Health Law at St. Louis University’s School of Law, described how Massachusetts developed the nation’s first state-based plan to provide adequate, affordable health care for all its residents.

After years of advocacy work by Affordable Care Today (ACT), a statewide coalition of community and religious organizations, labor unions, doctors, hospitals, community health centers, public health advocates and consumers, the plan was brought to fruition last year through the efforts of political leadership that was both bi-partisan and experienced.

The plan includes private insurance premium assistance for low-income residents and the creation of private insurance purchasing pools for small groups and individuals. It also contains an individual mandate that requires people to buy affordable health insurance if it’s available. If they don’t, they must pay a penalty equal to 50% of the premiums. The mandate, however, doesn’t go into effect until such affordable insurance is available, creating an obvious incentive for the state to make sure that happens.

A big portion of the plan’s costs will be covered by funds that will no longer be needed to reimburse hospitals for the care of uninsured patients. Last year in Massachusetts, the state’s uncompensated care pool was one billion dollars.

Another critical piece is the state’s expansion of its Medicaid program to leverage as many federal dollars as possible. For every dollar the state spends on the program, the federal government contributes another two. To Watson, maximizing this stream of federal dollars is a no-brainer. “For a governor to do it any other way,” she says, “is just irresponsible.”

This led to a discussion of whether Missouri might be able to follow Massachusetts’s lead. Watson feels we can, although there are obvious hurdles, one of the highest being our state’s legislative term limits that work against the development of an experienced pool of lawmakers.

But the state has over 600 million dollars in uncompensated care costs that could be redirected, millions of additional dollars in untapped federal Medicaid funds, and surprisingly similar ratios of insured to uninsured as those in Massachusetts prior to their reform.

Watson is convinced, however, that no meaningful reform will occur in Missouri without a strong, grassroots advocacy coalition. She sees much hope here, with much already in place and with continuing support from the Missouri Health Foundation and new involvement from Community Catalyst, a national health care advocacy group that has strengthened efforts in several other states.

This grassroots advocacy is what Women’s Voices is all about. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

December 14, 2006

Russ Mitchell: Who Decides?

More than 80 members, friends and guests of Women’s Voices learned about the workings of network television news when Russ Mitchell, CBS reporter and anchor, spoke at the December 14 meeting at the First Unitarian Church.

Russ Mitchell with president Barbara Finch

Russ Mitchell with president Barbara Finch

Mitchell, a native of Rock Hill who graduated from Webster Groves High School and the University of Missouri/Columbia, worked as a reporter for KTVI-TV and KMOV-TV in St. Louis before joining CBS news. His career has taken him from news hot spots around the world to CBS headquarters in New York, where he currently anchors the weekend news editions. He was recently promoted to news anchor on the early morning show.Mitchell explained that plans for the evening newscasts on network television begin in the early morning, when senior executives gather to discuss what is happening around the world. Plans for stories are made, crews are dispatched, scripts are written and video is edited throughout the day. Ultimately, decisions about what stories will air are made by a variety of seasoned, experienced news professionals. Only the “big three” network newscasters (those who appear on the 5:30 p.m. segments) have veto power over the stories they will report as part of their contractual agreements with the network.Mitchell spoke with great affection about some of his mentors in the business, including Dan Rather and Ed Bradley.”Ultimately, viewers get the kind of television news that they want to see,” he said. “Networks respond to viewers. If you don’t want to see celebrity news or entertainment on your nightly news show, write a letter. Make a phone call. Change the channel. Use your remote. If enough people do this, things will change.”

 

November 9, 2006

Shopping for Justice

A large, enthusiastic crowd of Women’s Voicers gathered at Plowsharing Crafts in U City for “Shopping for Justice,” an evening of conscientious shopping and lively discussion during which members and friends…

  • Helped select and purchase over 40 new children’s books for the Wyman School library in the city. (The wide selection of beautiful choices was made available by the Webster Groves Book Store.)
  • Contributed to a basket of “loose change,” which, by the end of the evening, contained $100 – enough to buy five flocks of ducks through the Heifer Project for families in third-world countries.
  • Learned about environmentally-friendly home products and a new St. Louis store, Home Eco, where they’re available.
  • Sipped fair trade coffees and organic wines and munched on yummy snacks made from Women’s Bean Project mixes.
  • Received a “hot-off-the-press” copy of our new booklet, Women’s Voices Puts Justice into Giving, in which members and friends share suggestions for stress-free, environmentally-sound giving.
  • Purchased gifts from Plowsharing Crafts, including candles, baskets, toys, hand-knit sweaters, potholders, Christmas ornaments, soap, and jewelry. The cash register was busy all evening, and by 9:00, we’d bought bags and bags of merchandise, all of which will help provide a vital, fair income to the third-world artisans who had made these beautiful items.
  • Celebrated, at the end of the evening, when we learned that 20% of our purchases, a whopping $637, will be donated to the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s 100 Neediest Cases. Wow! Here’s the text of a letter of thanks we received:”Many thanks to Women’s Voices for participating in our fund-raising evenings. Your group was great!At Plowsharing, we say that for every $3,500 sold, we are helpfing one artisan and his/her family for one year. Your sales for the evening were $3,187, which were incredible, and came very close to fulfilling the above equation. I think it would be fair to tell your group that the sales you did in one evening helped an entire family for a whole year. Fantastic!Enclosed is a check for $637.40, which is 20 percent of that $3,187 amount, which I know you intend to help local needy familes with. It’s a win-win.”Shalom,Rich Howard-Willms, Plowsharing Manager

All in all, it was a great gathering, filled with spirited conversation, post-election glow, and thoughtful “Shopping for Justice.”

October 12, 2006

Climate Change – And What WE Can Do About It

Jean Ponzi, environmentalist, gave a lively and informative program for more than 30 members at the October meeting. Ponzi is program manager for the Missouri Botanical Gardens EarthWays Center. In addition, she produces a weekly program titled “Earthworms” on radio station KDHX and writes a monthly column for “The Healthy Planet.

Ponzi distributed the Sierra Club handout, Ten Things You Can Do to Help Curb Global Warming. The tips include:

  1. Drive smart…a well-tuned car with properly inflated tires burns less gasoline.
  2. Urge government leaders to raise fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon.
  3. Support clean, renewable energy.
  4. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
  5. Winterize your home, and ask your utility company to do a free energy audit of your house.
  6. Use less water by installing low-flow showerheads and faucets.
  7. Buy energy-efficient applicances and electronics.
  8. Plant trees.
  9. Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible.
  10. Educate others about global warming and its dangers.

Ponzi discussed various methods of recycling available in the St. Louis area and decried the myth that our recycling simply goes to the landfill. “The same trucks may pick up garbage one day and recyclables the next, but the garbage goes to the landfill and the recycling goes to recycling centers,” she said. With single-stream recycling, everything…paper, glass, cans and plastic…is co-mingled. It is then transported to sorting stations where magnets, electronic eyes, airstreams and human hands sort the items. They are processed, bundled, and sent to manufacturers, she explained.

Ponzi urged members to use compact fluorescent light bulbs whenever possible. These produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use about a quarter of the electricity and last 10 times as long. She also encouraged members to save paper (and therefore trees) by eliminating junk mail. Names can be removed from mailing lists at newdream.org, the web site for the New American Dream. In addition, she urged members to become involved in local environmental groups, such as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

“When environmentally-sensitive questions arise, I tell people to just get the best information they can and then make the best decision they can,” Ponzi says. “One of the things I love best about the Green Fields I have chosen to labor in is that there are no 100% right or wrong answers – because peoples’ values always factor in.”

The Women’s Voices Environmental Focus Group is active and is currently encouraging area mayors to participate in Sierra Club’s “Cool Cities” program.

 

September 14, 2006

Give Missourians A Raise

John Hickey, executive director of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition (Pro-Vote), spoke before the largest meeting of Women’s Voices we’ve had to date. Every seat in the large conference room at Alberici was filled as John gave us an insider’s look into “Give Missourians A Raise,” the campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50. This past February, his organization and three others took a hard look at the political reality in Missouri. Although the federal minimum wage ($5.15) has remained flat since 1996, 23 states have passed legislation raising it within their borders. Unfortunately, there seemed little chance, given the current climate in Jefferson City, that a raise for Missouri’s workers would come from the lawmakers. Pro Vote and its partners decided they’d try to get enough signatures (94,000) to get the issue before voters as an initiative petition on the November ballot. Within less than three months, using mostly volunteers, they’d collected over 200,000!Who will be impacted if the initiative passes? According to a recent study by the national Economic Policy Institute, more than 120,000 Missourians currently earn less than the proposed $6.50 an hour. If they get a raise, another 136,000 workers would also get modest raises, as pay scales are adjusted, bringing the total of impacted workers to 256,000. John gave us some surprising statistics about these impacted workers. More than 70% of them are over 20. Forty-six percent work full time; 82% work more than 20 hours a week. Although 51% of all Missouri workers are male, 62% of the impacted workers are female. And a quarter of them are parents.With only 54 days to go before the November election, John urged all of us to become actively involved in the minimum wage campaign — and in the campaigns to elect progressive candidates to the Missouri house and senate. Pro Vote uses hundreds of volunteers to do phoning and door-to-door canvassing, and he asked that we contact the organization if we can give some time between now and November 7. He also urged all of us to go to their web site and sign up for Pro Vote’s E-alert list, an easy way to stay informed about progressive issues and take quick action as needed.