Making Democracy Work

Programs, Studies and Actions

Programs, Studies and Actions that the LWV-Needham is participating in or has participated in.

LWVUS Constitutional Amendment Study and Money in Politics Review and Update

The League of Women Voters is embarking on the study process for two national studies during the fall of 2015. This process began at National League convention in 2014 where the body adopted a study on the Constitutional Amendment Process and an Update to our Campaign Finance positions, under the umbrella topic "Structures of Democracy."

The LWVMA has a summary of the studies, links to the LWVUS pages, and a timeline of the LWVMA studies calendar at its website.

LWVUS Agriculture Study

The LWVUS Agriculture Update (2013-2014) focused narrowly on: 1) current technology issues in agriculture including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), herbicides, pesticides, agriculture water pollution, aquifer depletion, antibiotics in livestock, and accurate food labeling; and 2) current agriculture finance issues including consolidation in agriculture industries, crop subsidies and the federal agricultural regulatory process.

Read more about the LWVUS study at the LWVUS website including links to extensive background reading provided by the study committee.

An update to the LWVUS position on federal agriculture policies can be found at its website.

LWVMA Campaign Finance Study

At its 2013 convention, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts approved a new study, Massachusetts after Citizens United. SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW? which considered whether or not the League's existing campaign finance positions are adequate to meet the challenges of Citizens United and related recent Supreme Court decisions, and if not, what additional positions are needed.

The research done by this study committee led to getting LWVUS to take on the democracy studies being worked on in 2015-2016. Additional information is available at the LWVMA website.

things you can do nowIn April 2013, the LWV-Needham hosted The Influence of Money on Our Democracy: What Can We The People Do?, a talk given by Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig. He discussed the corrupting influence of money on the decisions made by our elected officials, especially in the US. Congress.

The slide at right was the last image at Professor Lessig's talk and encouraged attendees to participate in the organization Rootstrikers.

LWVN Residential Zoning Re-Study

Did you know that Needham had
  • 5 zoning districts and a population of 9,069 in 1931
  • 9 districts and 29,936 people in 1980
  • 29 districts including 9 "overlays" and 28,263 people in 2010?

During 2010-2011 a LWVN Study Committee explored our local position on residential zoning. In November 2011, there was a consensus meeting to discuss whether the 1985 position should be refined or declared accomplished. Following is the summary from that meeting.

In 1985, the LWV Needham adopted a position in favor of more restrictive residential zoning. However, no information could be found in our archives to describe the study, the consensus, or what the term "restrictive" was trying to convey. The Residential Zoning Study Committee did masterful work in the poring through the prodigious amount of records, making sense of them and compiling them in a way we laymen could begin to understand. The Studies Coordinators helped bring it all together for the League's consideration at a November 17 meeting.

After discussion about our present need to be positive, proactive, protective of the integrity of the town, limiting the amount of land to be used, character of the neighborhood, visuals for the entire street (not just the one house), affordable housing (40B), the following consensus was defined, to be approved by the board: Support zoning in residential districts to prevent lots with minimal frontage and irregular shapes.

In March 2013, the LWVN held a Forum on Residential Reconstruction with a panel that included Lee Newman, Needham Planning Director; Meaghon Jop, Wellesley Planning Director; Stephanie Maiona, Senior Vice-President - Commercial Lending at Needham Bank; and David Roche, Needham Building Inspector. The discussion included: What control/input Needham has over reconstruction in our residential areas; what other communities are doing; and what the economics are of reconstruction versus renovation.

LWVUS Education Study

What is the role of the Federal government in Education? Too much?....Too little? The League of Women Voters of the United States conducted a study of the Federal Government's Role in Education during the 2010-2012 biennial. The results of the study shaped the LWVUS' updated education position and lobbying efforts.

Should there be a national curriculum? ...and national assessments for our students? Would a greater federal role lead to unfunded mandates? Would it ensure more equitable funding for all students?

This 2010-2012 LWVUS Study materials and a link to the updated position can be found at the LWVUS website.

Our local Consensus Meeting was on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at the Needham Historical Society. We invited Don Gratz, Chair of the Dept. of Education at Curry College and former member of the Needham School Committee, and Susan Bonatiuto, Needham Public Schools Administrator, to serve as our experts as we deliberated together.

LWVN Stephen Palmer Study

Town-owned properties and land in Needham constitute valuable resources for all of us to use and enjoy. Together, we seek to obtain the best value from these resources now and in the future. But what are the best uses for town properties, and how do we determine them?

This LWV-Needham study focused on the Stephen Palmer building and the land on which it rests. The Study Committee investigated the history and current status of the building and site. The land and building constitute important public resources located in the center of town, and we know that the Town is short of space to meet many of its needs. This case, studied in depth, offers background for thinking about other properties as well.

The League of Women Voters of Needham conducted this study in 2008 and 2009. In April, 2009, LWVN held two consensus meetings to review the report of the study committee and to reach consensus, guided by prepared consensus questions. The results of these meetings led to an official position that the LWVN has adopted:

  • Support options for ending the building lease before 2027, weighing the costs of the options with the needs of the Town.
  • Support the use of the Stephen Palmer building and/or site for purposes such as rental housing that is affordable for seniors and others of moderate income, school, community center, town offices, senior center, or alternative mixed use.

To view the study committee report click here and the resulting consensus report click here.

The research materials have been organized into a binder that is available at the Needham Public Library.

LWVUS Immigration Study

Read the background paper at the LWVUS website, produced as part of the League's two-year (2006-2008) study of Immigration, which LWV-Needham participated in. The study aimed at helping communities understand the implications of immigration at the local, state, and federal level.

The LWVUS position on immigration can be found at the LWVUS website.

LWVMA Municipal Finance Study

The LWV-Needham participated in the LWV-Massachusetts Municipal Finance Study in 2007. The state league completed this important study with Municipal Finance Forums, and Needham was one of 19 towns to complete local study and report to LWVMA.

View a newspaper cartoon about the LWV-Needham and Understanding Town Finances.