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updated: 8/6/2012 10:08 PM

Roselle residents push for League of Women Voters chapter

Roselle residents want League of Women Voters chapter

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  • Roberta Borrino talks with f at a booth set up by a group trying to start a League of Women Voters chapter in Roselle and Bloomingdale.

       Roberta Borrino talks with f at a booth set up by a group trying to start a League of Women Voters chapter in Roselle and Bloomingdale.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Roberta Borrino and Carol Robins work a booth set up over the weekend by a group of women trying to start a new League of Women Voters chapter in Roselle and Bloomingdale.

       Roberta Borrino and Carol Robins work a booth set up over the weekend by a group of women trying to start a new League of Women Voters chapter in Roselle and Bloomingdale.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 

Roberta Borrino laughs when explaining why she has so many roles in Roselle.

"I get mad once about every couple of years and I end up on a board somewhere," Borrino said.

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She's not joking when it comes to her latest venture, helping launch a Roselle/Bloomingdale chapter of the League of Women Voters with a handful of other women.

Supporters include Roselle Mayor Gayle Smolinski, and the group will hold its first informational meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Roselle Public Library, 40 S. Park St., to see how many women -- and men -- might join their ranks.

Borrino is vice president of the Roselle Park District board, has been part of Lake Park High School band auxiliary board and is a member of several village groups, but a civic snafu during the spring 2011 election season fired her up to form the league.

That year, Roselle Elementary District 12 was forced to cancel a debate among village board candidates from rival parties after some candidates complained the forum was slanted because four school board members were listed as "vocal supporters" of an incumbent on her campaign website.

Several candidates bowed out as a result, one resident lodged a formal complaint against the district, and no one ever heard the candidates' views in public.

"It was driving me nuts that we couldn't have a debate," Borrino said. "We found a new venue, a new moderator, but no one would sponsor it because of the bad publicity. Then we talked about how everyone else handles this, and the league idea came up."

Smolinski said she was again reminded of the need for a League of Women Voters this spring as she went door-to-door campaigning for the Republican nomination for the 28th District state Senate seat -- an election she ultimately lost to Jim O'Donnell. Many residents told her they were too busy to talk, she said, or, worse, some just didn't care who was vying to represent them.

"If you don't have a league, you have no choice but to go door-to-door and bother people in their homes" Smolinski said. "I can understand as a resident there are so many things you have to deal with. I can understand why they're upset. So having a league that would sponsor forums and debates at a place when residents have already scheduled time in their calendars would be a more positive way to interact."

Forming a league isn't a quick process because all area leagues are governed by the Illinois League of Women Voters and the National League of Women Voters. Illinois has more than 40 leagues statewide, and Roselle/Bloomingdale is among three chapters trying to form this year, along with groups in DeKalb and Springfield.

All three must start as members-at-large and finish several tasks, like completing a project that demonstrates community impact such as voter registration or mock elections at a local school, before becoming full-fledged chapters.

But Jan Dorner, president of the Illinois league, said the Roselle/Bloomingdale effort is unique because it is the only completely new chapter this year. DeKalb and Springfield previously had chapters that merged with others as volunteers dropped off, and now a fresh crop of volunteers is trying to resurrect the groups.

In addition, last year Illinois lost a veteran league when the Barrington League of Women Voters folded after enthusiastic members began aging and not enough people were willing to carry the torch.

"There's definitely an ebb and flow," Dorner said. "For new members, a candidate forum is usually the initial draw to (form a) league."

To make sure they are starting on the right foot, the women in the Roselle/Bloomingdale chapter sought guidance from the well-established Glen Ellyn League of Women Voters. The Glen Ellyn chapter has been around for about 75 years and boasts nearly 100 members.

Glen Ellyn President Diana Hoke said the league serves an important role by not endorsing or opposing candidates and simply researching information.

"Our aim is allowing people to decide themselves," Hoke said. "People see us as sort of a bastion of civility within this political dogfighting arena. We try to keep a level of discourse above the fray."

That's precisely what Roselle leaders are hoping for as election approaches in November. But first, Borrino said, it's a matter of getting the word out and getting people excited about the idea of, quite simply, learning.

"It seems like a lot of time people read something on the Internet and suddenly it becomes like gospel, but there's something to be said for researching both sides," Borrino said. "That's just not an educated populous. The league is about learning, and you check your partisanship at the door."

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