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2003 - U.S. Green Year in Review, January to February


January-February 2003



By Mike Feinstein, Santa Monica, California


January 4: First Green Candidate of the Year Comes on Maui

Hawai'i began the New Year in Green fashion as Nick Nikhilanada, a long-time party organizer on the island of Maui, became the first U.S. Green to run for office in 2003.

A public affairs television host and substitute teacher, Nikhilananda ran in a special election to replace 24 year Congressmember Patsy Mink (D-2), who passed away unexpectedly in September 2002, two days after the deadline where her name could've been removed from the ballot. Posthumously she won the seat, so the election was held to fill the vacancy.

Nikhilananda finished 16th out of 44 candidates and was the highest placing third party candidate. The top three candidates - all Democrats - received 81% of the vote in this overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Nikhilananda previously sought local elective office as a Green for Maui County Council and in 1992, was part of the successful founding ballot drive of the Hawaii Green Party.

Since 1992, Hawaii Greens have won five races, holding District 6 on the Big Island County Council for 10 of the last 12 years. Keiko Bonk, who first won the seat in 1992, was also the first U.S. Green to win a partisan election.

Linda Martin, Hawaii Green U.S. Senate candidate in 1992, holds the U.S. Green record for U.S. Senate - and any Federal office - with 13.7%.

In 2004, Green incumbent Bob Jacobsen will seek re-election to the seat Bonk once held. Jacobsen won in 2002, after his wife Julie held it from 1998 to 2002. Between 2000 and 2002, local Democrats changed the rules to make the County Council seats officially non-partisan, thinking it would hurt the Green Party. Bob Jacobsen was elected despite this, with 50.6% in a November Run-Off, after finishing first out of four in the September Primary.


January 8:
Gonzalez Becomes President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors

In a
suspenseful

seven round contest, Matt Gonzalez
- the only Green Party member of San Francisco's 11 member Board of Supervisors - was elected Board President.

Board President is the second-most powerful political position in city government after Mayor, with the ability to set agendas, determine committee memberships, and otherwise affect legislation.

Gonzalez succeeded
outgoing Board President Tom Ammiano
, who stepped down after two terms. Facing off against Gonzalez were Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sophie Maxwell, who shared seven votes between them for six rounds, while Gonzalez held onto four. With a minimum of six votes necessary to win, and with a potential stalemate looming, Peskin released his votes on the seventh round, leading to a 6-5 Gonzalez win. Board members then re-voted 11-0 in order to make it unanimous.

San Francisco is now the largest U.S. city or county (pop. 776,000) to have its legislative body headed by a Green. Also impressive was that it
happened in a city
where Democrats outnumber Greens eighteen to one and Republicans four to one.

Gonzalez credited his election to his non-partisan commitment to openness and honesty in government. "At the end of the day, people want city services, accountability and an honorable debate by elected officials who don't abuse the public process to gain ideological advantage." Illustrating this point, Gonzalez was nominated by Tony Hall, the Board's most conservative member, who said "Gonzalez is a man of integrity and intelligence, who will carry out his responsibilities fairly and impartially."

January 24th: New Jersey State Legislator Switches to Green

In a historic move, New Jersey State Assembly member Matt Ahearn (D-38) became the first sitting state legislator to change his/her party affiliation to Green.

Elected in 2001, Ahearn became increasingly uncomfortable once in office about big money influencing his fellow legislators, especially his fellow Democrats. He also felt pressured to forgo his principles on issues of policy, and was asked by the state Democratic leadership to raise money from individuals and companies with business before the state.

In announcing his decision to go Green, Ahern recalled when a state Democratic staffer
came to his law office with a list of potential donors, along with the bills they were interested in. The staffer instructed Ahern to call the people on the list, discuss the bills with them and insist they purchase tickets to a Democratic fundraiser.

According to Ahearn, the staffer stood over him while he made a few calls. But Ahearn wasn't comfortable with this, and soon told the staffer he wanted no part of the scheme. "It was pay-to-play." Democrats called Ahearn ‘uncooperative' and privately planned to remove him from office even before he switched to Green.

In June, Ahearn introduced a Clean Money bill to provide for public financing for elections to the state legislature. Entitled "The
New Jersey Clean and Fair Elections For Legislative Candidates Act
",
it was based public financing laws passed in Arizona and Maine.

Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans did not embrace the Clean Money bill. However, Ahern did have 13 pieces of legislation passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. They dealt with Green issues such as labor rights, conservation and opposition to predatory lending. Many observers predicted Ahearn would have trouble moving legislation after he changed to Green, and because of his criticism of his former Democratic colleagues

In November the Democrats exacted payback, as Ahearn was defeated in a five-way race for two seats. Pre-election polls showed he had a good chance of being re-elected when identified directly in phone calls. But on Election Day he received only 5% of the vote. Many Greens concluded this demonstrated the critical role that a familiar partisan ballot line plays for voters who are unfamiliar with ‘downticket' candidates like Ahearn.

January 24th-27th: World Social Forum

Under the theme "A New World is Possible", the third
annual World Social Forum
(WSF) was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was attended by Greens from over twenty countries, including U.S. Green International Committee co-chair Annie Goeke and Miami-Dade (FL) Green Alan Kobrin.

Conceived as an alternative vision to the World Economic Forum, the WSF has become a global meeting place for groups and movements of civil society seeking alternatives to the dominant neo-liberal agenda.

Opening ceremonies featured over 100,000 people marching through the streets of Porto Alegre in a March por La Paz, led by newly elected President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, The march also featured members of the new Brazilian cabinet - including newly appointed Minister of Culture, Brazilian Green cultural icon Gilberto Gil.

The Brazilian Greens also co-sponsored a Global Mural project, which was unveiled at a high-profile ceremony in downtown Porto Alegre as an official event of the WSF. Organized by Porto Alegre Greens Patricia Dorneles and Walter de Oliveira, the mural was a depiction of the negative results of globalization and an attempt to provoke discussions upon the themes promoted in Agenda 21. The mural gave the Porto Alegre Greens national visibility and served as a model for other political/environmental projects in Brazil.

In conjunction with the WSF, On January 22nd-24th, a World Parliamentary Forum (WPF) was held, bringing together more than 400 parliamentarians from 31 nations. Many Green elected officials attended, including members of the European Parliament Monica Frassoni (Belgium/Italy), Danielle Auroi (France), Theo Bouwman (Netherlands) and Alain Lipietz (France) as well as Greens from several national parliaments.

A WSF co-convenor, Frassoni saw the opportunity for Greens and other parliamentarians to build strategic alliances with key social movements. "Porto Alegre has developed into the most important international meeting of the social movements and NGOs, who want to have an impact on decision making at global level."

On January 26th, the Second Green World Social Forum was hosted by the Goethe Institute, providing Greens from around the globe the chance to meet and exchange ideas. The meeting generated a tour of Europe by Green Minister Gil. Many Greens also participated in demonstrations for Peace and against the ALCA (Free Trade Area of the Americas).

February 1: Year's First Elected Green Comes in California's Antelope Valley

Los Angeles County resident Tom Bolema became the first Green elected in 2003, winning a seat on the seven member Junniper Hills Town Council, in North Los Angeles County in the High Desert Antelope Valley.

In Los Angeles County, Town Councils set community standards and advise County Board of Supervisors on issues relating to their community, which would otherwise be superceded by county-wide decisions. Bolema ran on a platform of conservation and inclusive politics. In all, ten California Greens sit on such county or municipal advisory bodies.

February 15: Greens Play Important Role in Anti-War Movement

From the streets of New York City to the California Pacific sands- and many points in between - Greens participated in anti-war demonstrations across the nation, joining millions across the planet in protesting the anticipated invasion of Iraq by the Bush Administration.

U.S. Greens were the nation's ‘peace party', on this national and international day of solidarity and protest. Greens helped organize many of the rallies, and were featured as speakers in many of them as well.

In New York City's "Stand Up, Rise Up" rally,
Hartford (CT) City Councilmember Elizabeth Horton Sheff was a featured speaker.

In California, Santa Monica Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin McKeown spoke at the Peace at the Beach Rally, reminding attendees about the Green Party's fundamental commitment to non-violence.

In the days before the rallies, Greens challenged U.S. General Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations. The day before the rallies, the Green Party of the United States held an anti-war press conference in Harlem.

New Haven (CT) Alderman John Halle - who successfully introduced an anti-war resolution in his own city - spoke of being the only Alderman willing to come out early on this issue, even though Democrats held 26 out of 30 seat on the Board. Also speaking were national Green co-chair Anita Rios (OH), Green Party of New York State co-chair Mark Dunlea and International committeee co-chair Annie Goeke (MD).

Across the nation in 2003, Green elected officials on city councils, school boards and county board of supervisors successfully induced 25 resolutions against the war and 22 resolutions against the USAPATRIOT Act. Greens continued to call out the connection between the invasion and the desire by the Bush Administration to control oil.

In this, they were joined by Greens around the planet. Pictured on the right, the Greens of Andalusia, Spain say
'no war for oil'
.

Their voice was also echoed by the New Zealand Greens, pictured below at a February 15th demonstration in Wellington.

From the streets to the 'halls of power', New Zealand Green MP and Foreign Policy Spokesperson Keith Locke followed that with a speech to Parliament making the Green case against war.

On the planetary level, the Global Greens
also released a statement against the invasion of Iraq.

February 21: Green Rainbow Rising in Massachusetts

Signaling an historic coming together of the Green and Rainbow Coalition parties in Massachusetts, state Green co-chairs Grace Ross and Gary Hicks submitted official papers to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, to change their party's name to the Green-Rainbow Party.

Their action culminated a three-year process to align two groups that have been at the forefront of the fight for social and economic justice in Massachusetts. Press conferences and celebrations were held the next day across the state - in eastern Massachusetts at the Middle East Restaurant, Central Square, Cambridge, and in western Massachusetts at Bart's Ice Cream Shop in Northampton.

Long time Rainbow Coalition leaders Mel King (MIT) and Boston City Councilor Chuck
Turner
were instrumental in bringing the two parties together, a decision that was approved by each party's general convention first in 2002.

"The goals of the Green Party are the goals of the Rainbow Coalition Party," said King. "Unity is the key to our success. Together, we can change politics in Massachusetts so that everyone has a voice."

Those who were registered Green previously automatically became registered quot; Green-Rainbow". Rainbow Coalition Party members were asked to reregister as Green-Rainbow.

The newly united progressive party held its first state convention in June in Worcester, and devoted most of its time to organizing and training. It also elected a diverse state Administrative Committee and national Green delegation.

In November, Turner was re-elected in Boston's District 7 with 98% of the vote. By the end of 2003, Green-Rainbow voter registration stood at 8,588.

February 21-23: Historic Green Officeholders Gathering

More than 50 Green officeholders and other party leaders came to Santa Monica, California to attend the second-ever Conference of Green Officeholders. Organized by Santa Monica Green City Councilmember Mike Feinstein, the Conference brought together elected Greens to meet and share experiences, and to establish the first-ever Green Officeholders Network in the U.S.

The Network's purpose - as stated in the Founding Declaration drafted in Santa Monica and ultimately signed by 57 elected Greens across the nation by April 1st - is to "help network Green elected officials among themselves, with the rest of the Green Party and with the public at-large, and promote Green policies and the organizational development of the Green Party."

The Network contemplates regional and national Green officeholder gatherings, as well as an interactive Web site for officeholders to share resolutions and legislative experiences. Green officeholders will also participate in campaign schools and candidate trainings across the country. Organizing for meetings like the League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayor would also be coordinated.

While the organizing of the Green Officeholders Network occurred mostly on Sunday, the Conference's first two days focused on issues and strategies of being a Green in office, as well as how Green officeholders viewed the party's strategy in 2004.

Friday
evening opened
with "welcomes" from Feinstein, Santa Monica Green Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin McKeown and Santa Monica Rent Control Board Commissioner Jeff Sklar, as well as local Green appointed officials Sandy Grant (Environmental Task Force), Iris Oliveras (Architectural Review Board) and Jan Williamson (Arts Commission). Introductions, socializing and feasting followed, featuring catered vegan food from Native Foods, a local Green-owned business.

Saturday morning featured a full-group session on policy and "being Green in government." Attendees presented success stories on housing, land use/development, energy, affordable housing, stormwater run-off, pedestrian/bicycle orientation, food security and elimination of pesticides/alternatives to toxins.

Saturday afternoon featured breakout sessions into types of offices held, with City Councilmembers in one group and School Board/College Boardmembers in another. This was followed by a sunset reception on Santa Monica's beautiful Will Rogers Beach, at the foot of Palisades Park.

On Saturday evening, a robust discussion took place on party strategy, including the relationship between officeholders and the party, and the party's presidential strategy in 2004.

Invited national Green Party pre presenting during this session included national Green co-chair Ben Manski (WI), who spoke about the local relationship in Madison between the Greens, Progressive Dane (a municipal progressive party) and the officials they helped elect; and Juscha Robinson (MI/WI) who spoke about coordination between officeholders and the GPUS Coordinated Campaign Committee.

This was followed by presentations on "Greens and 2004" by San Francisco Green Ross Mirkarimi, who was the California Nader 2000 campaign coordinator, and "The International Green movement" by Lotta Hedström, a Green member of Swedish Parliament who came all the way to build connections and learn from U.S. Greens.

The first Conference of Green Officeholders was also held in Santa Monica, in February 1998, and was organized by Feinstein and Lynne Serpe. It was the first time that a large number of elected Greens in the U.S. had come together to discuss policy and share experiences. For more information on Green Officeholders:

* Greens

Holding Elected Office

* Green

Mayors

* Youngest Greens Elected

* Most

Years Holding Elected Office as a Green

* Most

Greens Holding Office at the Same Time on a Legislative Body

* Most

Consecutive Years with at Least One Green Holding Elected Office on the Same Legislative Body

* Greens

Holding Elected Office Around the Globe

February 21-23: Historic Green Officeholders Gathering

Greens and others from across South Florida came together at the Sunset Tavern in South Miami, to celebrate the state's newest Green officeholder - Dan McCrea. Elected in November 2002 as an independent, McCrea joined the Green Party in early January 2003 after mailing in a new voter registration card to the Secretary of State's office in Tallahassee, the state capital.
Of his decision to ‘go Green', McCrea said "This is about believing in the platform and viability of a relatively new party that has chosen to put fairness, ethics and sustainability at the head of its program."

"Most people know the Greens as the party of environmental responsibility. But most don't know the Green Party applies those same principles of stewardship, wisdom, and compassion across the board."

"The Green Party thinks globally and nurtures our common humanity. Green foreign and domestic policies embrace the realities of sharing the planet and the Green Party is the only party to welcome this global reality and advocate policies to deal successfully with it. From town planning to foreign relations, the Green Party's principles set healthy systems into motion, that enrich our long-term security and prosperity. "

Joining the celebration was surprise guest 1980 Presidential candidate John Anderson. A Founder and Director of the Washington-based Center for Voting and Democracy, Anderson spoke of the necessity for electoral reform through voting systems such as Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation.

Other speakers included Eric Fricker, vice-mayor of Cocoa Beach (and the first elected Green in Florida) and Steven Schmidt (St. Petersburg), one of the principal framers of the 2000 national Green Party Platform. It was that platform, Anderson observed, that was so similar on key points to the platform he ran on in 1980, that partly explains why he so strongly supported Nader in 2000.

Later in July, McCrea made headlines with his
advocacy for voter verifiable paper-ballot records
for mandated touch screen voting machines, particularly in light of the 2000 election experience in Florida as a whole and Miami-Dade in particular (Miami-Dade was one of four Florida counties that conducted a recount in the 2000 presidential election).

McCrea's successful resolution before the South Miami City Commission on July 28th to "bring integrity to the election process by requiring a paper record of every ballot cast no later than the 2004 presidential election" was the first by a municipality in the nation. It was soon followed by two other municipalities in Miami-Dade County - Miami Beach and Bay Harbor Islands - after McCrea advocated for the issue at the Miami-Dade League of Cities.

McCrea also joined the efforts of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition (MDERC) as its Municipal Advisor. MDERC came together after the Miami premiere of the film "Unprecedented", which was about the various mechanical and political irregularities in the Florida 2000 presidential elections, and which was co-produced by California Green Joan Sekler.

MDERC has focused promoting secure elections in general, and the security of new touch screen voting machines in particular, including associated necessary oversight, laws, rules, and procedures - with paper records as just one tool in ensuring that security.

MDERC was also responsible for getting outside observers for the 2002 election in Miami, and for denouncing voting machine contract irregularities in Miami-Dade County.

Additionally, MDERC has done ground-breaking work bridging the need for election security with increasing accessibility for visually-impaired voters - issues which sometimes have appeared at odds. MDERC has also worked restore voting rights to people with felony convictions - another notorious issue from the Florida 2000 election..

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