ALAMEDA -- After 15 years of offering the public a "Meet Your Public Officials" reception and fundraiser, Alameda's League of Women Voters set themselves the goal of getting more residents involved -- the organization wanted a way to bring more Alamedans face-to-face with their elected and appointed officials.

To that end, the league has decided to use a "speed dating" approach for its April 23 fundraising event at Alameda Elks Lodge, designing a format that provides time to chat with Mayor Marie Gilmore and Councilmember Lena Tam among the others who will attend.

"This is a very important election year," said Alice Wilson-Fried, event coordinator and LWVA board member. "There's a lot going on that we really need people to understand how important it is for them to vote, to be involved and engaged and to know what government does."

Since the mission of the League of Women Voters is to inform voters with nonpartisan information, resources and candidate forums about issues that affect their daily lives, the event provides a good opportunity to accomplish just that. The event also gives officials the opportunity to make contact with their community.

A second purpose is to raise funds that can be used by the league to organize forums such as the ones on health care and human trafficking and prepare panels on issues that help inform the public.

The new speed dating format will be set up with officials spending 15 to 30 minutes at one table where guests will be able to come and speak with them for about five minutes before moving on to the next table. Since the time frame runs from 6 to 7:15 p.m., the question may be one of seeing how many officials can be met in 75 minutes.

"This year, we wanted to find a way to give more people access and to bring more of the community into the event," Wilson-Fried said. "Here in Alameda, it's a unique opportunity we offer for the community to meet and talk to their representatives."

The league has invited every appointed member of the city's boards and commissions, including the school board, social services and recreation and park. Invitations have been issued to U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, whose district includes Alameda. California Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore and Alameda Vice Mayor Marilyn Ashcraft will be among the officials attending.

Wilson-Fried expects between 30 and 40 officials and predicted that among the evening's discussions there will be talk about city and school finances, development projects and traffic issues.

The league plans to round out the evening with light appetizers provided by local restaurants, a no-host wine bar, and a raffle and silent auction for items that include dinner with Mayor Gilmore, a six-month gym membership at Marina Square, gift baskets, wine, time shares, and a variety of gift certificates from local wineries, businesses and restaurants.


FYI
What: Alameda League of Women Voters' "Meet Your Public Officials"
When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 23
Where: Alameda Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Ave.
Tickets: $10 per person, tax-deductible; can be purchased at the event or in advance from LWVA members or by mailing a check to LWVA at P.O. Box 1645, Alameda, 94501.
Information: 510-869-4969 or go to http://LWVAlameda.org/Public_Events.html.