Joyce Brown, Town Council, Chapel Hill, NC
It took Joyce Brown just $1525 to finish first out of ten candidates running for four seats, for the Chapel Hill Town Council. Brown’s victory was to her third 4-year term, a record for US Greens.
Brown ran on a platform of promoting sustainable development, premised upon strong environmental and neighborhood protection. During her eight years in office, she has developed a strong reputation for addressing the affects of unsustainable development – traffic, unsafe streets, overcrowded schools, increasing stormwater runoff and flooding, loss of affordable housing (with most new local developments out of the price range for low and middle income), loss of trees, stresses on public infrastructure, and increasing taxes.
Brown’s main accomplishments in office included reducing solid wastes, increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in town-owned buildings. She spearheaded a county-wide regional visioning and community building planning process, and developing indicators for sustainable development for Chapel Hill. Brown was a frequent defender of the Resource Conservation District Ordinance, which protects streams and aids in stormwater management.
Grassroots environmental and neighborhood activists were a large part of what swept Brown back into office. She received 4401 votes (6751 voters) without doing any direct mailings to voters. Rather, she appeared in all the candidate forums, and along with her supporters, walked all neighborhoods and passed out brochures. The fourth-place finisher, by contrast (four seats were up for election) spent $10,000 and received 3656 votes. In her previous two campaigns, Brown spent $500 each time, coming in third then second.
Brown’s bid for re-election was bolstered by endorsements from the Chapel Hill News – the only major local newspaper that does local endorsements – and The Daily Tar Heel (University of North Carolina student paper), as well as an alternative paper called The Independent. Brown also received the endorsement of the Sierra Club, the Alliance of Neighborhoods, the Black Public Workers Association and the Orange County (OC) Greens.
For the OC Greens, Brown’s victory was the group’s fourth out of six attempts. In addition to Brown’s three victories, Green Alex Zaffron was elected to the Carrboro Board of Alderman in 1995. The OC Greens are active and effective on the local policy level, and are perceived locally as expanding what is politically possible. One of the most electorally successful Green locals in the country, it is also one of the oldest, founded in 1985. Brown openly identified herself as an active member of the OC Greens, which helped her win with Chapel Hill’s progressive community, but hurt her chances with the pro-growth/business elements.
Although she’s had success in office, Brown often she finds herself in the minority regarding growth. “Chapel Hill is a strange mixture politically” she says, “It never supports Jesse Helms and it’s easy to get a resolution passed supporting a symbolic gun or smoking ban or support for freedom fighters in Central America. But we can’t get ‘pay as you throw’ garbage collection or deal with affordable housing in any meaningful way, though we talk a lot about it. We are actually more liberal than progressive.”
Cris Moore, City Council, Santa Fe, New Mexico
A physicist at the Santa Fe Institute and a long-time Green organizer, Cris Moore was elected to the Santa Fe City Council, District Two in ‘94 when he was only 25. In office, he’s championed controlling regional growth, promoting affordable housing, and reforming property taxes to allow lower-income families to keep their homes.
Known among Santa Fe residents as hard-working, fair and intelligent, Moore was elected ‘best City Councilor’ two years in a row by the readers of the Santa Fe Reporter. He was also elected “best next mayor” in a reader’s poll in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
In March ‘98, Moore was re-elected 59%-26%. In what was a four-way race, he won a majority in all 12 of the district’s precincts, receiving between 51% and 68% in each. Moore also received 3395 votes overall – almost twice the 1833 he received when he won in 1994.
This strong finish suggests that in District 2, the Greens are arguably are the leading political party. In addition to Moore’s strong finish there, Green Congressional candidate Carol Miller finished ahead of both the Democrat and Republican, winning a majority in this district (and District 1) in the May, 1997 special Congressional election. The Greens also contributed significantly to the margin of victory of Larry Delgado, this year’s new Mayor, as well as Debbie Jaramillo, the last mayor. Some speculate that Santa Fe could be the first area to elect a Green to a state legislature.
In his campaign, Moore made controlling regional growth a big priority. He favors a Regional Planning Commission ‘to stop sprawl and focus growth into infill and dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods where people can use buses, bikes and feet instead of their cars. Development should pay for all public facilities, and impact fees should increase with the distance from the urban core to promote a compact urban form (as well as reflecting the true cost of extending services to outlying areas).
Moore has worked to expand the bus system, increase City funding for sidewalks and bike lanes, and preserve and increase open space. He has also worked for recycling and composting, ‘green’ purchasing polices, and aggressive water conservation policies that give breaks for water conservation while charging extra for high water use.
Moore’s economic vision calls for a ‘pro-labor’ approach of pressuring employers with large profit margins to pay better wages, and a ‘pro-small-business’ approach of helping people start and expand their own businesses. In addition, he seeks to replace corporate chains with locally-owned businesses (which he calls ‘import replacement’), or at least slow down the replacement of local stores by chains.
Moore created a Small Business Ombudsperson position in City Hall to help small business owners navigate through city codes and regulations. Moore also helped write and pass the Home Based Business Ordinance, which allows people to work out of their homes so they can avoid high commercial rents and spend more time with their children
The makeup of the new Council presents some challenges for Moore. Progressives split the vote in District 1, leading to a surprise conservative win. As a result, the balance of power has shifted somewhat towards a more moderate to conservative bent. Yet Moore remains optimisitic in the power of grassroots organizing – ‘this Council may work as well as the old one — if community organizers do their job!’.
Krista Paradise, Board of Trustees, Carbondale, CO
Incumbent Trustee Krista Paradise was re-elected in March, her race made easier when two other candidates dropped out, leaving only three candidates to fill three open seats. Paradise joined the Board in December, 1996, when she was appointed to fill an unscheduled vacancy. At election time, she was organized to defend her spot and confident about her chances had the election been held.
In office, Paradise focused on affordable housing, particularly for lower-income workers. According to a study by the non-profit Healthy Mountain Communities, local wages are so low that buying a house in Carbondale, requires the wages of four full time jobs in the area.
Many Carbondale families have both parents working two or more jobs, so youngsters are often left alone. To help, Paradise helped establish what has become a wildly successful, racially diverse teen center, utilizing an old trailer that used to be the town’s police station.
When it comes to parks and recreation, Paradise argues that building one or two more soccer fields is enough. More money could then be spent to buy used cross-country skis and back packs for teens, and to take advantage of the area’s long winter months. This would reach more youths for less money, she argues, and would fit with the climate of the region. Paradise is also seeking funds to open a senior center.
On the outskirts of town, a large piece of land is being sold by a private high school. A ‘big-box’ commercial corporation has a contract on it, likely anchored by a Safeway-like market. Paradise feels that for a town of 5,000, this would have a negative impact. Even though the project fits the area’s zoning standards, she is researching how other communities have successfully stopped them.
The next few years promise to be uphill for Paradise. The two other new trustees are a pro-growth conservative, and the town’s former police chief, who is in charge of security of a huge gated community just outside of town. This puts Paradise into a 1-4 or 2-3 minority on development issues. Given this disparity, Paradise is putting hope in the town’s new master plan process, which she believes will show that residents prefer a more controlled-growth approach. This, she hopes, will give her more leverage on the Council.
Liz Simonson, Town Board, Woodstock, NY
In November 1997, Liz Simonson was elected to the Woodstock Town Board. A community activist, small-business owner and a former Deputy Town Clerk, Simonson finished second out of five candidates for two seats, with 22.4% of the vote.
Simonson ran on what she called a ‘populist, pro-community, pro-quality of life’ platform, focusing on controlling growth and promoting inclusive government. She opposed a large scale hotel/conference center proposed for the middle of town, arguing that it would be an assault on the character and health of the community. Tourism, Simonson said, should respect the town’s scale and surrounding natural beauty and draw upon the town’s many creative, talented craftspeople, tradespeople and artists. Woodstock’s sense of place should be preserved, she argued, not sold off like a short-term commodity.
Simonson called for more open space and recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking and rollerblading trails and a new pool, as well as support for the arts, including an arts endowment and preserving the town hall as a performance space for the public.
Simonson ran on her experience of government from the inside, gained from her time as Deputy Town Clerk, as well as her community organizing base, including the Woodstock Tree Committee, Woodstock Zoning Evaluation Committee, Woodstock Community Garden and Woodstock Land Conservancy. She spent $1200, mostly on literature, as well as spending many hours visiting homes and standing in front of the local Grand Union and Post Office passing out her literature.
In New York, unlike most states in the country, it is possible run as a ‘fusion’ candidate. This means one can be on the ballot as the endorsed candidate of more than one party. Simonson chose to run as a Green and a Democrat, and received the nomination of both parties. This option was discussed at great length early on by the Woodstock Greens, and the conclusion was that this was the only way Simonson would have a chance at winning. Simonson herself saw similarities between the local programs of the Greens and Democrats, and thus felt comfortable with the fusion candidacy.
Once elected, however, Simonson has been frustrated by the positions of some of the Democrats. Technically there are four Democrats (including Simonson) and one Republican. It has become apparent after a couple of initial commission appointments, however, that there is a 3-2 pro-conservative split, with two of the Democrats aligning themselves with the Republican. Within this context, it will be a challenge for Simonson to move forward with parts of her agenda.
James Corrigan, Board of Trustees, Northport Village, NY
James Corrigan won a seat on the Northport Village Board of Trustees, finishing second out of seven candidates for two seats. He received 997 votes, only 38 less than the first-place finisher, and more than 200 ahead of the third-place finisher.
Corrigan ran on the local ‘Good Neighbors’ party slate, supporting an environment and open government platform. He joined candidates for trustee and mayor. Three won, breaking a 20-year merchant control of the Broad. Corrigan will be part of a new 4-1 majority, which also will feature the village’s first woman mayor in its 104-year history and the first time two trustees would be women.
The issue that prompted Corrigan to run was the decision by the previous Trustees to exempt downtown businesses from a 30-year old law requiring garbage to be placed in closed containers. Because of topography, plastic garbage bags were being washed down Main St. and into the harbor.
Northport Village is one of only 17 designated Historic Maritime Centers in all of New York State. Corrigan campaigned on a plan to implement a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, upgrade the city’s sewerage treatment plant to tertiary treatment, undertake a comprehensive stormwater runoff mitigation effort, replace the use of fertilizers and pesticides with organic composted materials and Integrated Pest Management, and ensure public open space along the harbor.
In the year prior to the election, Northport Village had also been rocked by scandal, when it was disclosed that the mayor had instructed the police chief to illegally use the New York State Police Information Network to find information on political adversaries. A civic activist sued the Village, mayor and police chief for $250 million, claiming they tried to discredit him. Corrigan’s slate signed a campaign pledge promising ‘an ethical campaign and objective, accountable, democratic governance in the public interest.’
The slate also put together a program called “Great Streets”, to reduce local impact on global warming, through the implementation of a) traffic-calming, b) improved pedestrian and cyclist environment, and c) tree planting. Corrigan, a solar-power activist, also called for the creation of a municipal electric utility, to obtain power from cleaner sources and to foster more widespread use of renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaics.
Corrigan and supporters spread their message in a variety of ways. Taking advantage of unseasonably good weather, they visited every home in the Village at least once, sometimes twice, dropping literature and answering questions. Campaign volunteers held coffees with the candidate meeting with 8 to 12 votes at a time.
Corrigan did five mass mailings to all registered voters in the village, roughly 5,000 in total. He also ran ads for six weeks in one of the local weeklies. Ads and mail both focused on the issues, staying true to Corrigan’s pledge to run a clean, issues-oriented campaign.
Annie Young, Parks & Recreation Board, At-Large, Minneapolis, MN
In 1989, Annie Young was elected to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board for the first time. Minneapolis Board has one of a handful of elected, independent park & recreation boards in the country. It stewards 6,500 acres of land, urban forest and recreational activities, including 54 community centers.
In November, 1997. Young was re-elected to her third four-year term. Young ran as a Democrat her first-two terms, but in ‘97 it was as a Green. Her seat was city-wide, and she finished first overall, ahead of the candidate endorsed by Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) and five others..
In Young’s first two terms, she focused on raising consciousness within the Park & Recreation system about the need to balance between the economics of operating and maintaining the park system with and preserving the environment, stewardship and community. In addition to appreciating the benefits of recreation and nature, Young sees parks as a catalyst for community-building.
Some of Young’s policy initiatives focused on improving water quality in the park system’s many lakes higher energy efficiency systems in park construction projects, reduction of the use of harmful chemicals in the park system by converting to Integrated Pest Management, improved wildlife management, opening dog parks, providing sustainability education and training, and paying living wages for recreation workers.
Nevertheless the DFL denied Young its endorsement in 1997. Young believed the DFL engaged in blatant manipulation by, for example, changing the convention rules on the floor. The DFL’s failure to give Young its endorsement was remarkable given that Young was also the top vote-getter in 1993, and even though she had risen high within the DFL’s internal power structure, eventually joining the state executive committee platform committee and elected officials committee.
Disillusioned by the general Clintonesque/centrist direction of the DFL, Young accepted the nomination of the Minneapolis Green Party, as well as that of Progressive Minnesota (the local chapter of the New Party). Young spent $5,300 in and received 39,624 votes. During the campaign, her ‘Re-elect Annie Young for Parks’ signs dotted lawns throughout the city, featuring ‘labor’ and ‘green’ endorsements in the corners.
Young had over 20 endorsements including most Labor organizations; AFSCME Council 14, AFL-CIO Central Labor Union, Minneapolis Building & Trades, IBEW, CWA, Minnesota Womens Political Caucus, Minnesota NOW, Minneapolis-DFL Green Caucus, Minneapolis-DFL Coyle Gay/Lesbian Caucus, Progressive Minnesota, Green Party, Minneapolis Employee Association, and Clean Water Action Alliance.
When Young was first elected to the Park & Recreation Board in 1989, she and another woman elected at the same time were the first new people elected in 12 years to sit on a Board where most members had served 20-25 years. In 1993, voters elected three more new commissioners. Then, in 1997 five new commissioners were added. This has created some gaps in the 115-year history of the Park system. But it also has brought new thinking, greater energy and more diversity to the Board. For the first time, four people of color are now members of the Board.
Young is considering a run for City Council in four years. One option she is considering is whether to run as a Green/DFL fusion candidate or go it alone with only the Green endorsement.
Currently, Young works for a non-profit GREEN Institute which is in the forefront of community-based economic development activity in Minneapolis. Young’s political career began by volunteering for the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy in 1968. Later she worked for the Jesse Jackson for President campaign in 1998 and Paul Wellstone’s successful US Senate bid in 1990.
Dean Zimmerman, Parks & Recreation Board, District 3, Minneapolis
A lifetime advocate for social and economic justice, environment and progressive politics, Dean Zimmerman was elected to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in 1997 for the second time (his first time as a Green), winning his district 67%-33%.
In office since 1994, Zimmerman has worked to drastically reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides in the parks, and to restore wetlands around Minneapolis lakes to improve their water quality. He advocates increasing recreation programs for inner city youth, converting the Park fleet to clean burning fuels, expanding the riverfront parks and other green corridors, and establishing dog exercise areas.
“We live in a social-economic system that is largely the creation of government. The relevant question is, ‘how well is the system working?’. Too often government bodies do not look after the interests of working people, the poor and other forgotten segments of the population. Elected officials need to make sure that the system works well for all, including the vulnerable segments of society.”
Zimmerman’s organizing goes back to the 1960’s as a staff member for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Non-Partisan League in North Dakota. More recently, he was an active volunteer with the 1988 Jackson for President campaign and the 1990 Wellstone for Senate campaign.
Even though Zimmerman accepted the nomination of the Democrat-Farmer Labor Party, he also enthusiastically accepted the nomination of the Greens and of Progressive Minnesota. He did this because he has been consistently disappointed by the Democrats, and hopes a new, progressive party will succeed.