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2003 - U.S. Green Year in Review, March to May

By Mike Feinstein, Santa Monica, California

March 15: Green Home Alabama

Thirty Green activists from across Alabama gathered in Birmingham - the biggest meeting ever of Alabama Greens - to formally organize the Alabama Green Party. Attendees adopted by-laws and picked a statewide coordinating committee, in effect organizationally formalizing a party that had first formed in 2000 during the Nader/LaDuke campaign.

With the growth of the Alabama Greens in 2003, combined with two new Green city councilmembers in Florida and the Mississippi Green gubernatorial campaign of Sherman Lee Dillion, Greens are taking root in many places across the South. This continues a trend of Greens' growth to all parts of the country, from the party's early roots in the Northeast, Midwest and California during the mid-to-late 1980s.

By the end of 2003, five local Alabama Green Party chapters would be established across the state, and on July 3rd, the Green Party of the United States would accredit the Alabama Greens Party as a full member on the national level.

In 2000, the Alabama Green Party gathered over 50,00 valid signatures of Alabama voters to put Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke on the ballot for president and vice-president. Over 18,000 Alabamans cast their votes for Nader/LaDuke in 2000.

March 25: Rural New Mexico Green Town Councilmember Advocates Local Economic Self-Reliance

Voters in the southwestern New Mexico town of Silver City returned Gary Clauss to the Town Council for a fourth two-year term, resoundingly with 79.2% of the vote.

For Clauss, a primary issue facing his community is the relationship between water and growth. Since the mid-1980s, Silver City has supplied water to outlying areas beyond its incorporated boundaries, in effect - according to Claus - subsidizing urban sprawl there.

Despite the fact that these unincorporated areas had no sewer service, paved roads or street lighting, by the 1990s they were growing rapidly. Meanwhile, the Town of Silver City lost population. To reverse this trend, Clauss has challenged water subsidies and is also promoting a plan for local economic self-reliance to renew Silver City's town core.

Clauss brought economic advisor Ernesto Sirolli to town, who promotes a people-centered, local entrepeneurship vision for economically distressed communities. Sirolli's well-received presentations placed emphasis on using local resources for economc renewal, rather than relying on outside capital, technology and traditional economic growth.

April 1: Wisconsin Greens Win Four City Council Seats

Wisconsin Greens continued their strong tradition of success in municipal races, winning three city council seats in Madison and one in Racine on April 1st. Incumbent Brenda Konkel was joined in Madison by Austin King and Brian Benford on the city's Common Council.

Since 1998 - when the first Green was elected in Dane County, The Four Lakes Greens have now won seven city council races, twelve county supervisor races and two races for school board in Madison through April 2004.

Konkel - an affordable housing advocate - was re-elected with 71% of the vote despite a well-funded, negative direct mail campaign against her by her developer opponent.

King, a University of Wisconsin student at the time he was elected, became the fourth youngest U.S. Green ever to take elected office, at 21 years old. He replaced fellow student (and Green) Todd Jarrell, who was 22 when he was elected in 002.

King campaigned on establishing a local minimum wage and this came to fruition in March of 2004, when the Common Council established a municipal minimum wage to reach $7.75 an hour by 2008. Prior to his election in April 2003, Austin was a leader in the campus anti-sexual assault movement and participated in many campaigns for social and economic justice."

Benford, a neighborhood and education activist, became the fourth African-American Green City Councilmember in the U.S., after Elizabeth Horton Sheff (Hartford, CT), Natalie Johnson Lee (Minneapolis, MN) and Chuck Turner (Boston, MA).

In Racine, 33 miles south of Milwaukee, Greens elected their first Alderman, solar power advocate Pete Karas, who quickly
gained a regional profile
after taking strong stands against plans for coal-fired power plants in the area, advocating conservation and renewable energy in their place.

Karas also
came out forcefully against
the newly passed Federal "Rave Act"
. Touted as a bill to fight raves, the Rave Act allows federal prosecutors to press charges against anyone who holds an event where there is drug use on the premise. Karas encouraged young people to see this as a reason to become more involved in politics.

April 4: Medea Benjamin, Michelle Shocked and the U.S. Peace Movement go on trial on Dr. Phil

Former California Green U.S. Senate candidate Medea Benjamin appeared with singer/songwriter Michelle Shocked on the Dr. Phil Show, with the topic being Iraq - not the problems with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but the validity of the anti-war movement and the manner of its protest.

According to many observers, Dr. Phil cleverly baited Benjamin and Shocked with 'feel good 'therapeutic language about good and evil, as he attempted to paint U.S. motives and tactics above reproach, and to cast the U.S. peace movement as well-intentioned, but unwitting collaborators with the Enemy.

One example of that kind of protest was CODEPINK,
the new women's' peace organization Benjamin helped start together with Starhawk, Jodie Evans, Diane Wilson and approximately 100 other women. They marched through the streets of Washington, DC and set up for a four month vigil in front of the White House.

There are over 80 active CODEPINK communities around the globe, forming a worldwide network of women and men committed to working for peace and social justice. The name CODEPINK plays on the Bush Administration's color-coded homeland security advisory system that signals terrorist threats. While the Bush's color coded alerts are based on fear,
the CODEPINK alert is based on compassion, and is a feisty call for women and men to "wage peace."

On September 18th, 2002 Benjamin did just that when she interrupted the testimony of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during at a Congressional Hearing of the Armed Services Committee, with chants of "inspections, not war."

Unfurling a banner right behind Rumsfeld, Benjamin demonstrated because members of the House committee would not ask Rumsfeld tough questions."
How many civilians would be killed? How would they protect us against the backlash of anti-Americanism? Why is this all about oil? Why is it coming up now? Can't we wait till after the elections? Why is the Bush administration stopping this inspection process? Why don't we put it back into the hands of the U.N. Security Council?"

May 1: Massachusetts Greens Join in 400-year New England Tradition,

Win Town Meeting Seats

In Amherst, Massachusetts, incumbents Miriam Dayton, Frank Gatti and Emily Lewis were re-elected to Town Meeting seats, and were joined by Tom Flittie to bring to 11 the number of Green-Rainbow members currently serving on the 255-member body.

Amherst is one of 303 communities in Massacusetts that maintain still some form of town meeting, carrying on New England's nearly 400 year-old tradition.

The Town Meeting body acts in an advisory capacity to Amherst's Selectboard and in some cases has its own jurisdiction. Amherst's first Green elected to the Town Meeting was Kate Harris in 2001. Twelve Greens were elected in 2002, followed by four victories in 2003.


May 7: Green and Youth revolution in New Paltz

Greens swept to a historic victory in the Hudson Valley village of New Paltz, New York, winning the Mayoralty and two seats on the five member Village Board -- taking progressive control of the Village government.

Green Party member and housepainter Jason West , 26, was elected Mayor of the Village of New Paltz, while Green Party member, community organizer and single mother Rebecca Rotzler, 39, was elected to the Village Board of Trustees.

In addition, independent Julia Walsh, was also elected. A student at State University of New York at New Paltz and prominent youth and student organizer, Walsh joined the Green Party that September, giving New York their first ever Green Party majority and creating only the third Green City Council majority in American history.

The three ran for office in May as candidates of both the Green Party and the local Innovation Party. Mirroring the success of Greens around the country, the three ran on an agenda tenants' rights, affordable housing, environmental protection and open government.

West is the youngest Green ever to be elected Mayor.
He's also one of only seven that have been directly elected (the other 17 became mayor in cities that either appoint them from within the City Council, or select them by rotation.)

In 2004, West made national headlines by presiding over more than twenty gay marriages before a court injunction to prevent him from continuing was ordered.

A Yupik Eskimo, Rotzler is the third elected Green who is Native American. The other two are Cass Lake, Minnesota Mayor Elaine Fleming (2002-present) and Della Coburn of the Kasaan Tribal Council in Alaska (2001-2003)

Walsh joins UW Madison's Austin King (22) and Providence University's David Segal (23) as the three young Green students currently holding elected office. All three sit on city councils.


May 27: Idaho Greens elected to School Boards

Demonstrating that Greens can win in the rural West, two Idaho Greens won school board races within a span of six days. On May 27th Larry Baggett was elected to the Lake Pend Oreille School District in north Idaho's Bonner County. On June 2nd, Selene Hall swept to victory on the Plummer/Worley School Board in Benewah County.

Baggett campaigned for a more open, accountable School Board, particularly regarding District budgeting and finances.

Hall vowed to stem her District's high faculty turnover rate by better engaging the community and faculty on how to improve school climate.

She also made bringing the community into the process an overall theme of her campaign

The two victories are the third and fourth in Idaho Green history. Previously in 1991 and 1995, David Sawyer was elected Mayor of Sandpoint, also in Bonner County.


May 27: Maine Green State Legislator passes first bill


Maine State House member John
Eder
saw his first bill become law. Entitled "An
act to protect children from cancer causing chemicals"
, it was passed as an "Emergency Measure" with two-thirds approval of both the State House and Senate, and then signed into law by the Governor.

Eder's bill gave teeth to the State Department of Agriculture's "Integrated Pest Management Rules" for schools, by compelling the Department to adopt a list of pesticides and chemicals that would be prohibited for use on school grounds, and to work with the State's Department of Education to implement it.

Eder became only
the second U.S.Green ever to be elected to a state legislature
, when in November 2002 he received 66 percent of the vote in a head-to-head race with a Democratic opponent in Portland's liberal West End

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