Heather Kelly, President
in Conversation with Nora Leech, Economics and Taxation Committee Chair
Link to Interview on Youtube
Heather Kelly: Okay. Amazing. So last month we took off of Connecting with the Community because we were just so busy with election related stuff. But we're bringing the feature back this month, and I'm here today with the fabulous West Seattleite, Nora Leech, and we're going to cover all of the high epic milestones of her League journey, beginning with her most recent expedition into the community. Nora, do you want to catch me up about your meeting with the Girl Scouts?
Nora Leech: Well, that was just terribly cute. They were eight years old. There are about ten of them, and they were just adorable. And their leaders. They had three leaders. So it was about how women got the vote. So a little bit abstract for eight-year-olds, but they were hanging in there. So at one point, I talked to them about the fact that we narrowly got the vote because the State of Tennessee, approved it. They were the last day, and it was down to one vote in the Senate. And at that point, the Senator, whose name was Burn, he got a note from his mother. Do you know this story?
HK: I don't think I do.
NL: A note from his mother that says, “Son, give women the vote.” And he changed his vote because he was a negative at that point, he changed it to a pro, give women the vote. And that made it pass for the whole United States. Amazing. And the thing about the Girl Scouts, these little, young girls, they are really young girls. I wasn't sure they're going to get this, catch what that meaning was. And so I said, “Hooray for Senator Burn! And then this little girl says, “And his mother.” She understood it, and it was just a funny she made that comment. And I thought, “Oh my gosh. “It was well worth coming down here. So.
NL: That was precious. That was really precious. It was just this little girl, you know. She got it!
HK: That’s amazing. I knew the story about the last-minute vote change and that it was down to one senator, but I didn't know that, I mean, I should have figured there was a woman behind the scenes who, she says to him…
NL: That’s right.
HK: That’s awesome. Okay, so I think we need to move on to a really important question, which is, did you get any Girl Scout cookies?
NL: They fed me well.
HK: Well. Amazing, because we always want to make sure our volunteers are thanked properly when they go out into the community. And also, if you did have any extra boxes of cookies, I might make a special trip over there.
Were you a Girl Scout growing up, or no?
NL: I was. I was a Girl Scout and a Girl Scout leader. Okay. I'm a big fan of the Girl Scouts.
HK: Okay, so where did you grow up?
NL: I grew up in Ohio.
HK: Oh, where abouts?
NL: Columbus, Ohio.
HK: Okay. My mom grew up in Akron. That's why I asked. Well, she was born in Akron, and then they moved to Orange County when she was still pretty young. But I always ask when I hear people are from Ohio.
NL: Yeah, it's where big football competitors are.
HK: Yeah, I know. It’s a big football state. That whole midwest is just bonkers for football. Okay, so you grew up in Ohio, and eventually you made it out here to Seattle. How long have you been a member with the League of Seattle-King County?
NL: I knew you would ask. Forever, you know. I was actually born in Seattle, lived here the first years of my life, and then there's a big Boeing bust, and then we had to pick up our stuff and go back to Ohio, see if we could make it there.
So my formative years were definitely in Ohio, but I came back to Seattle, so that's 50 some years.
HK: So tell me what originally brought you to the League?
NL: The League? Well, turns out, although I did not know this before, that my grandmother was a member of the League of Women Voters in Ohio. My grandmother
HK: Wow! Wait, what was her name?
NL: Her name was Rachel Lynton. Or Godown. So it was just, so that was a surprise. I came to the league because I said, you need to be informed. I need to know what I'm voting on. And I love sitting with other women who are informed and having the discussions and chawing down on what are these issues because they are confusing. And the League was a great venue for that. So I loved being around very politically educated women and having a good discussion. That brought me there.
HK: You know, I’ve heard one version or another that answer in different contexts,
including other interviews with league members for this feature. And one of the things that things that I sort of like have come to realize as a relatively new League member and younger League member is I came to the league to meet people similar to you like to meet people who are politically active and politically engaged and learn more about the political world of my community after I had moved from another state. But after I kind of got my feet under me a little bit, my goal really changed to, like, I guess, serving beyond the League community, serving the voters, which is, of course, like the mission work of the League that League members have always done. But it's just interesting to me, like, how people initial reasons for joining or coming to the League have kind of remained consistent, even though so much of how we do our work has changed. And I think that's there’s probably a more outward public facing service element now, but maybe not. I mean, voter registration was always a big focus.
NL: Yeah, yeah. I think it's just wanting to be around people who are very knowledgeable and to have a discussion so you can tell your own intellect, tells you, oh, that's a little off, or this is okay. But having the stimulation of people hashing through the issues is very valuable.
HK: Yeah, and people you trust too, right? That's a piece of it too. Like as we start kind of trying to focus more of our energy on getting out the vote and voter registration is like at Washington State, finding ways to inspire, engage owners where they really feel reassured that the information they're getting is like vetted.
NL: Yes. Very valuable. Plus it gives you, your intellect gets to grapple with all the different nuances. And it's not easy, as this last election showed us in terms of things on the ballot, you don't have any idea, like what? Do you want or that? If you don’t want that do you want this anyway. That last, you know, it was very, very confusing. So it really is important function of the lead to develop relationships. Very grassroots to let people grapple in a safe environment. And that you're not going to be ridiculed that you don't know. Women don't do that to each other.
HK: Yeah, amen to that. I feel so strongly about that, actually. I mean, if people can't ask questions because they're afraid or they don't want to look a certain way, then it's really just such a lost opportunity.
NL: You need a safe environment to hash through the issues. Yeah. Makes you much more confident. So that grassroots getting together and discussing the upcoming elections, it’s very valuable to what's going on. Besides there's so much trickery, deception, untruths. It's a huge issue now. So you need to be around people trust who will and who will respect you.
HK: Yeah, I really hear that and appreciate that. I was talking to a reporter this past week with Crosscut about, she was doing a piece on the low (again), relatively low youth voter turnout. And we were kind of like hashing through some of the possible explanations for that in our discussion. I realized I thought of this, but not maybe in this exact way. Young people today have, like, an entirely additional task as voters that I don't feel I had when I was new to voting, which is wading through all of the garbage and misinformation
HK: On social media. Yeah, lies! Let's just call it what it is on social media. It's not just like, about educating people about the issues. It's about pointing them to reliable resources and helping them get those blinders on or think critically about what is or isn't a reliable resource.
NL: They need to make friends that they trust and then they all can do the same thing. They can talk about issues, what lies they've heard what this, what that. But they need their group that they trust to hash out the issues. I think that’s extremely important. And nobody likes to feel like they’re stupid
NL: Most of the assemblies on voting, they really make you feel like you feel like you're stupid, right? And young people they will resist that. They need a trusted group of friends where they can be real about the issues and have a good discussion.
HK: Yeah. And I think that means same-age peers. Yeah, right. I think there's a value in, like, having intergenerational support from experienced voters, certainly. But, like, you know, like, teenagers want to be with teenagers, and beyond teenagers, young adults. We've been trying to meet folks where they are as far as social media platforms, et cetera. But as an organization that skews older in terms of our membership age, we just have a lot of learning to do from the voters that we're trying to serve about what their needs are.
NL: Exactly. Yes. Young people intellectually go wade through all the stuff. They really are probably better than we are at that. But they do like to have their friends, and that is a good thing. They should get together with their friends and discuss the issues. What's going on?
NL: The League should encourage that, for them to get people to get together with their friends. And then if you want to get more people, then that's fine, too. Get together with your friends and talk about the issues.
HK: Absolutely. Have a little voting party.
NL: Exactly. That’s what I do. Say, “Hey, what's going on with this?”
HK: Yep, absolutely. We’re actually, we have a young lady working for the League through a league national grant, and she is developing a survey for young voters to figure out, like, how the League can facilitate those types of events. And so there's kind of like a checklist of things we know we can offer that we're good at and hopefully we'll get some good data about, like, where our programming should really be strengthened. And I'm so excited to share those results out. Okay, but I have more questions for you. So tell me about the Econ and Taxation Committee. Was that something that you created or you stepped into an existing committee? How did that come about?
NL: We did create it. And what happens is that as you go through life, is all these great issues, that have to do with poverty and lack of opportunity, well everything boils down to economics.
NL: So that's what happened. We said everything leads to economics. We need to understand what is being promoted in terms of policies, where is this energy coming from and who benefits? So that's what we did. We started a big study group and we've read so many books. It was fabulous. And the same, it’s a very trusting group of women, and we support each other. We didn't start off being very knowledgeable about economics. We learned a lot on the way. But that was a support group, so we can really grapple with that. But we can get people who were experts to come talk to our group, which is really nice too. So people were very willing to help us in our journey to understand economics and taxation. I'll tell you the issue of taxation, I'm just studying King John of England. Everything was about taxation. King in one of the tax the nobles. The nobles didn't want to be taxed without representation. The issue is a very old one.
HK: Yup, yup. It sure is. This is really funny. My kids were sick this last week and they were out of school. And so, of course, we had like, snuggle time on the couch with a movie. And the movie I picked, because I get to pick sometimes, was my favorite movie growing up as a kid, which was Robin Hood, which is all about King John and taxation.
NL: I think that's right. And that was my favorite too! I used to love Robin Hood stories. I even told someone at church that my name was Robin at some point. How bad is that?
HK: I love it. I love it. So it's so funny because it's true. Everything really does boil down to taxation and the economy. Even in the Disney universe.
NL: Exactly. That's the whole issue. So how much does the King want? What's he spending it on? Yes. Collecting it. No kidding.
HK: So I guess one of the things I wanted to ask you as, like, a standing committee chair, is there anything that the board can do to support your work?
NL: Well, it's a mutual back and forth. So we really like to weigh in on the board. If it's something that we have a position on, like taxation, that we like to weigh in on things that are being proposed and say, well, this is just this position, or it doesn't fit this position, or we don't have a position on that.
So that's really important to follow positions on the issues, and then also to share the back and forth, this is what we are finding about taxation and about the economy. Yes, we would like to work more closely with the board, even get to know them, would like to meet with the board at some point.
HK: Yeah, well, that's just what I was going to propose because it's budget season. I mean, we're starting to think about our own organization’s budget, but also just looking around and seeing kind of like how different elected officials are approaching budget creation. And it makes me think that there's no reason why we couldn't take a stance on budget issues and advocate for more funding here or less funding there. With your input, so hopefully we can join forces a little more.
NL: There you go. Join forces and share what we know. I think the whole issue, well, one thing that I did, my big point of accomplishment at the League of Women Voters was coming to a study on privatization, privatizing government functions and private sector. And we had studies. We had a King County study, we had a state study and it was proposed at the national level to have a study on privatization and what's going on. And, so, this is where the mean mouse made a squeak and shook the whole work. So I stood up at national, you know it’s very intimidating, there's women from all over the United States there, and I suggested that we do a study on privatization, privatizing public services and then they said, well, okay, now we'll take a vote. Now, National, never, doesn't like studies coming from grassroots, generally. Okay, so they said take a vote and all those in favor and a loud, “Aye!” went up and I was taken aback. Everyone was taken aback, the board. So then they said, “Well, let's see, maybe have a written vote on there.” So they took that. Overwhelming. People wanted to know what in the world was going on with the government using their funding and all of this stuff. So we did. We were tasked with doing a national study that went out all across the United States, and we came up with positions on it. So it is there to be… and one of them is the study shows people do not like the idea of privatizing the tax collection. So the IRS is not to be privatized in private companies. We know it's trouble. And in fact, there was trouble back in King John's time. They got kind of nasty about how they collected those taxes and who they collected from. So it's the same issue. So it needs to be a government in the government purview, not in the private sector or contracted out to the private sector. So we have a position there so we can act on across the United States and we should use it. So that was an amazing person. I had to do the study with five people. That was quite intimidating, very intimidating, but we made it. We did it, so...
HK: Wow. Oh, my gosh. I totally got goosebumps when you were describing that moment at convention. What an experience. And thank you for doing that work. I mean, of course, it's like every time you put your hand up.
NL: You might end up doing it.
HK: I feel like you probably have earned some sort of, like, honorary degree in economics from the University of the League of Women Voters.
NL: Everyone was quite shocked. It was that the time was right.
NL: People were upset. Governments are going broke, and people want to know what in the world is going on.
HK: So unlike today.
NL: Yeah. Right.
HK: Well, I feel like I could talk to you for, like, another hour, but we should probably wrap it up so the transcript isn’t like, 70 pages long. Okay, well, I'm going to pose to the board that you are ready, willing, and available to assist with supporting us in taking stances on issues around budget, taxation, and other economic issues. And we will kind of strengthen our communication pathways back and forth and see what good we can do. How about that?
NL: That would be great. And anyone’s invited to join in for the meetings. They’re monthly. Just zoom in. If anyone on the board wants to just join for one time or becomes interested. In fact we have a number of board members who are joining.
HK: Yay. Good. Okay, awesome. Well, thanks again so much for your time today, for showing up for the Girl Scouts and all the amazing work that you do for the League, past and present. I'm excited to see more of you.
NL: Thank you. Thank you very much. Very kind of you.
HK: Take care. Bye.
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