Forum Questioned

No on A group feels public meeting is compromised

Last Monday, the Committee Against Measure A announced that, rather than coming to the library to participate in the League of Women Voters of Alameda (LWVA) forum on Feb. 3, they would drop out and remain outside with picket signs.

At issue, the committee says, is the question of equal time. The committee claims that the forum’s agenda offers time to both the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) and to proponents of Measure A, which will determine whether Alameda’s property owners would pay a school parcel tax over the next five years.

Leland Tramain, the committee’s secretary, offered LWVA an ultimatum. “We want equal time to argue for a fair and progressive tax structure,” he stated to the League. Tramain said he expected a response today, Jan. 27. He told LWVA that he expects a revised structure to “provide balance and equal time for speakers on both sides of the issue.”

“Otherwise, we will drop out of the forum, and instead picket the forum and hand out leaflets at the entrance, explaining that the League uncharacteristically refuses to give equal time to both sides of the issue,” he stated.

“The League is very disappointed at the mischaracterization of our announced format for this meeting,” LWVA co-presidents Anne Spanier and Jeff Cambra stated in a letter that the organization sent to the Alameda Sun. In the letter, Spanier and Cambra stated that LWVA had invited Robert Shemwell, AUSD’s finance director, to present factual information as a foundation for understanding the pro-and-con presentations, which would have followed.

“The opponents of Measure A have characterized Shemwell’s presentation as advocacy; this is not the case,” LWVA’s letter stated.

As an AUSD employee, Shemwell is not permitted to advocate for either side. LWVA asked him to present information so that Alamedans can evaluate the accuracy and import of statements supporters and opponents of Measure A would have made at the forum.

“If the League had been given the courtesy of an inquiry, it could have clarified their misunderstanding and the whole concern could have been easily laid to rest,” Spanier and Cambra stated.

LWVA stated that it was its intention to share Shemwell’s presentation with both sides ahead of time so that they also could use the information in making their own arguments.

“We are not departing from our time-honored tradition of providing the facts and an opportunity to hear both sides in a format that stresses equality and opportunity for the community to ask questions,” the letter stated.

“We stand by our announced format and believe that it will give the community the best information possible to decide for themselves on the merits of the measure to be discussed,” Spanier and Cambra stated.

The Committee Against Measure A planned to participate in the forum until the group learned that LWVA would give the school district an additional 30 minutes of time to advocate for their proposal before allowing the audience to hear both the pro and con presentations. The committee claims that current forum structure amounts to 40 minutes of scheduled time for proponents of the unfair tax structure, and just 10 minutes of time for advocates of a fair, progressive tax structure.


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