Summer 07 Elections


Three Victories Keep The Momentum Building In Illinois
by Nathan Helsabeck, Illinois Green Party

While taxes seem high for many residents, the district’s schools are under-funded at the same time — Carol Larson seeks to turn this trend around by addressing budget shortfalls and directly engaging students who are marginalized by the pressures puts on by standardized testing.

After a successful 2006 campaign where Illinois Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney received 10.4 percent of the total vote, a record for any U.S. Green running for governor, the Illinois Green Party (ILGP) followed up in 2007 with three victories in local races this April. Carol Larson was elected to Oak Lawn-Hometown School board, Robert Braam to the Manhattan Library Board, and Kris Campbell was reelected for another term as a Poplar Grove Village Trustee.

These victories now give the ILGP, six members holding elected office across the state. Along with two more ‘near-wins’ in 2007, this signals an increasing presence for the party in state politics. With Whitney’s 10.4 percent of the popular vote, the ILGP is now the third officially-recognized party in the state giving it equal ballot access for Green candidates through 2010.

In 2007, local Green candidates approached their races with a broad array of grassroots approaches to campaigning and a strong commitment to the party’s Ten Key Values.

A 38-year old University of Illinois doctoral candidate in educational psychology, Larson moved to Oak Lawn in 2000 after years in academia and teaching school in Evanston. In her first run for office, she finished first for one of three seats on the south Chicago suburban Oak Lawn Hometown School Board, deciding to get into the race after hearing former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar state many qualified people are afraid to run for public office because the campaigns have become so costly and nasty.

“This struck me as serious,” said Larson. “If we don’t find people with strong competencies to run for public office, we run the risk of experiencing the negative consequences of poor decision-making.”

Larson began her campaign teaming up with local Greens to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. She then stayed on message throughout the campaign with a platform of “children first, fairness, respect, communication and quality of life.” Cognizant of the burden that property taxes place on families and those on fixed incomes, she also pledged to be fiscally conservative by eliminating waste.

Yet complicating matters is that while taxes seem high for many residents, the district’s schools are under-funded at the same time. According to the Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition, of which the Oak Lawn-Hometown School District is a founding member, “Illinois ranks 48th of the 50 states in education funding, and 49th of the 50 states in providing for equitably funded schools, a gap that goes from less than $4,300 per pupil in the poorest districts to more than $18,000 per pupil in the wealthiest districts in Illinois.”

This inequity plays out locally. Despite a parcel tax increase passed in 2003 to help temporarily balance the budget, the district still ranks in the bottom 6 percent in the state in terms of financial health, is in its third consecutive year on the Illinois State Board of Education’s financial watch list and is facing new budget deficits that will continue to accelerate each year unless major changes are made.

Larson made this part of her campaign and seeks to turn this trend around by addressing budget shortfalls and directly engaging students who are marginalized by the pressures puts on by standardized testing.

Larson highlights a pressure felt by many educators in the state of Illinois by the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which threatens to cut funding even further if certain standardized test scores are not met. She said, “NCLB puts pressure on school districts to funnel their resources to particular students for the purpose of increasing test performance. While it is necessary to help students who have fallen behind, it is equally important to make sure the other students have access to resources that promote academic growth.”

“I’ve been in schools in which kids learned science from 10-year-old textbooks. I’ve also been in other schools that provide high-tech science labs stocked with supplies. One does not have to think too hard to figure out who is going to learn more science. If we want Illinois children to flourish and to develop the skills necessary to live in the 21st century, then we must provide each child with a quality education.” Larson said.

Larson, who also teaches online child development courses to undergraduate students through the City Colleges of Chicago, joined the Green Party during fall 2006. “It’s been my experience many people support the same principles as the Green Party – social justice, sustainability, increased community involvement and decision-making. As people become more dissatisfied with the status quo i.e., an under-funded school system at the state level, global warming issues, “pay to play” politics, they will be open to listening to third party alternatives.”

“The primary challenge for the Green Party is to communicate its platform to a wider audience. Since it does not accept corporate campaign contributions, it does not generate the millions of dollars the Republicans and Democrats raise for their campaigns. This requires Greens to be smarter about running campaigns.” She said.

Braam was able to win his seat on the Manhattan Library Board (near Peoria) by running a write-in campaign. His victory gained the attention of the local press Harold News, where he was quoted as saying, “My whole motivation in running was to be part of the community É the whole concept of a library is kind of community-based. It’s a storehouse of literature and information the whole community can access. That kind of plays into our principles, my Green Party stance would make me a very strong advocate of the library.”

As an eight-year incumbent in his race for reelection to Poplar Grove Village Board (Poplar Grove is near the Wisconsin border, northeast of Rockford), Campbell did not have to overcome the obstacle of name recognition. “I connected with voters at two public debates, in the course of serving my existing term, and through casual conversation everywhere. As I talked to people, I made sure to ask for their vote, and to recommend me to anyone who asked.” Campbell said.

Campbell was initially attracted to the Greens because his personal values matched up well with those of the party. “My positions were mostly established before I read the Ten Key Values,” said Campbell. “I joined the Green Party because my positions and the values were so well aligned.”

Now that he has been reelected, Campbell hopes to entice high quality commercial and industrial businesses, retain and enhance green space and parks, work for water conservation and watershed protection, adequately fund schools and other services for the increased population, and nurture communication between citizens and government groups.

Jason Wallace, 24, another strong candidate finished fourth in a five-way race for three seats on the Heartland Community College Board. Wallace narrowly lost by only 17 votes after a recount in a race where over 33,000 votes were cast. He served as a student trustee for the board from 2005- 2006 and received the 2006 Gigi Campbell Student Trustee Excellence Award. During this time he chaired the Local Issues Subcommittee of the Illinois Community College Board Student Advisory Committee, and represented Heartland Community College with the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, of which he is now Chair.

In true grassroots style, Wallace campaigned without spending any money. By setting up free web sites on Facebook and MySpace and sending out emails, he was able to bring new tools to the way local races are run and bring the ten key values to new voters and experienced campaigners alike. In so doing, Wallace gained the attention of local media and earned several endorsements, including the Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly and the Pantagraph, a daily newspaper with more than 107,000 readers in Central Illinois that said Wallace “demonstrates a good understanding of the issues, both financial and academic, and would bring a valuable perspective to the board as a former student.”

With experience serving in the Air National Guard, Wallace is one of at least two potential Ilinois Green candidates in 2008 with military experience, with Iraq War veteran Navy officer David Kalbfleisch ( http://www.electdave.org ) already having announced a run for Illinois’ 10th congressional seat (in Cook and Lake counties). According to Kalbfleisch, who is 28, “the ILGP looks forward to joining forces with Iraq Veterans Against the War to mount a strong campaign in this district. 2008 should be a key year for turning this blue state green.”

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New York Both Gains And Loses
Greens Win Two Elections
by Mark Dunlea, Green Party of New York State

New York Greens won two school board elections in mid-May, with Rome Celli running opposed for re-election in Brighton (a Rochester suburb), while Dr. Edgar Rodriguez was elected for the first time in New Paltz (about 90 miles north of New York City.)

Edgar Rodriguez

Both Rodriguez and Celli have a long history in education and community activism in their local areas. Although New York local school boards have nonpartisan elections, both candidates are known in their communities as Greens.

“Since 1973, I have had the experience of putting six children through the New Paltz schools with three children now completing their secondary studies,” said Rodriguez. “Over this time, I’ve been involved in the school district in various ways, including serving on a variety of committees, most recently being the Community Diversity Representative to the New Paltz Central Schools. With my election to the school board, I feel like I’ve finally graduated from this process.”

Rodriguez, 60, campaigned on four main platform points. First, to teach the ‘total child’ with a balanced curriculum, including reducing testing and aiming instead to meet the social, emotional and psychological needs of students. Second, to reform school taxes, with the state providing more funding to schools with less dependence on local property taxes. Third, promoting meaningful public participation in planning for academic and new buildings. And fourth, educating students to respect and defend diversity.

For Rodriguez, respecting and defending diversity means many things. As a long-time participant of Concerned Parents of New Paltz, which provides a voice for parents and students of color, he was successful in getting the district to adopt a two and a half day “Undoing Racism” training for the superintendent of schools and other staff. As a result, five diversity committees were organized.

Rodriguez has also countered phobias towards students’ sexual orientation, and included diversity education to include people with physical handicaps and special education needs. He even adopted a campaign platform of “humane education” for animal awareness. “If you teach children caring and kindness towards animals,” said Rodriguez, “you can also carry across to other areas and make a better human being.”

Rodriguez also saw his election as a choice between two long-standing visions of education in the community. “Some people think education should use a ‘business model’, that operates schools like IBM, to be more efficient. But students are not ‘chips on an assembly line,” Rodriguez explained in a post-election video interview with Green Party state committee member Kimberly Wilder.

“Children are human beings. We don’t know completely how they learn and special education shows there are different ways of reaching different students,” Rodriguez said. “There are many who favor top down management in the schools, especially to meet the needs of capital in this country, in order to train kids to serve the needs of corporations. I don’t agree. I believe we need to teach knowledge for the sake of knowledge rather than only preparing for specific vocations, professions, and instead try and instill in them a love of democracy, environment, social justice and community service.”

This was Rodriguez’s second bid for the School Board. A year earlier, he finished a close fourth among four candidates for three seats. This time he finished second among three candidates for two seats. According to Rodriguez, in his first run, he involved traditionally disconnected voters from the town’s apartment districts, who didn’t tend to participate in local elections. As a result there was a record turnout in that race, but he didn’t win. This time he realized he also needed to pay more attention to frequent voters, especially homeowers who were more likely to turn out to the polls. The result was a victory backed by a diverse constituency built over two elections that he hopes will give him a mandate to be truly effective in office.

Rome Celli

In his first term, Celli, 46, worked successfully with members of the community and the school district administration to upgrade nutritional standards and limit access to unhealthy foods and beverages in district schools. This led to the removal of soda from local schools.

A ‘big picture’ thinker and activist, Celli hopes to focus in his second term on helping to reform the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. As a member of the Monroe County School Boards Association and now its vice-president, Celli has already been lobbying local Republican congress member Randy Kuhl, who sits on the House Education and Labor Committee, about the NCLB’s negative effects on all districts schools with its limiting of resources and unrealistic testing standards.

Noting that the first time NCLB was passed, it was drafted in closed-door bi-partisan meetings, “this time” Celli said, “its reauthorization will be made in public, and gives us a chance to truly make a difference for the children this legislation is allegedly meant to serve.”

On the state level, Celli is a former member of the Green Party of New York State Committee and has also been active as vice president of Citizens for Better Government in New York (CBGNY), a “good government” organization seeking to reform the New York State legislature, which has often been cited as the most dsyfunctional in the country. Carrying forward the same theme of open government that he wants to apply to the NCLB authorization process, in January, Celli presented a CBGNY-sponsored petition to the state Assembly and Senate. The petition calls for an end to the practice of governing by “three men in the back room” at the state capitol, and seeks to empower rank-and-file members to develop and pass legislation in a more transparent process.

Rounding out his civic activism Celli, a self-employed small businessperson (real estate broker) for 28 years, is also the vice president of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce.

Jason West

While New York Greens won two school board races, the big shocker happened a few weeks earlier in New Paltz when Jason West was defeated 514 – 379 votes in his bid for re-election by village trustee Terry Dungan.

West, one of two Green Mayors in New York (along with Mike Sellers in Cobleskill) had skyrocketed to national attention three years earlier when his decision to perform same-sex marriages as mayor helped push the movement into national headlines. West had also won local applause for his innovations on environmental and housing issues.

Mayor West’s defeat was the material of a Greek tragedy. His opponent defeated him by embracing West’s agenda over the last four years Ñ even though it was a 180 degree shift from the prior administration Ñ but contending that he could it better, primarily by doing a better job of ‘bringing the community together.’ Dungan ran an effective door-to-door campaign attacking West’s personal style.

Perhaps overconfident owing to West’s high name recognition and the strong community support for the direction the Greens had taken the Village, West and local Greens started their own campaign only a month before their election. In addition, the candidates backed by West for the village board two years previously had overwhelmingly defeated the slate put forth by the village’s old guard Ñ and now the old guard wanted payback.

In summarizing his accomplishments, West said “Four years ago, I ran for Mayor promising to bring environmentally sound infrastructure, expand involvement in village government, protect tenants’ rights and expand affordable housing. Since 2003, we’ve built the first phase of a reed bed system to turn our sewage into compost, rather than mix it with toxic chemicals and ship it to landfills in poor communities. We installed a solar panel array on the public works garage which has so far generated 15,333 kW of electricity, saved taxpayers $2,299, supplanted the burning of 1,127 gallons of oil and 1,533 lb. of coal and kept 16,743 lb. of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. We’re exploring the feasibility of building a 500,000-gallon-per-year biodiesel fuel facility, which could supply every public works truck, fire truck and school bus in New Paltz with a non-toxic, biodegradable fuel, with 80 percent fewer emissions than petro-diesel. And we’ve recently finished writing a pair of laws that will protect wetlands, streams and the Wallkill River; one law defining what is protected and how, and a second law creating a wetland and watercourse.”

“Under the leadership of Deputy Mayor [and fellow Green] Rebecca Rotzler, we’ve also passed our first affordable housing law, requiring 15 percent of new construction be affordable, and giving priority to residents at most need based on a point system for senior citizens, emergency services volunteers, and others vital to the community who may not otherwise be able to afford to live in the popular municipality. Not surprisingly, because of the affordability requirement, this is now being challenged in court by the biggest developer in town. I’ve also written an affordable housing law that would give incentives to developers to build more affordable housing than the bare minimum currently required”

West actually received more votes in losing in 2007 than he did in winning four years previously. The difference was that the old guard Democratic Party had fractured in 2003, running two competing candidates for Mayor. In addition, at that time local Greens were able to mobilize the large number of students at local State University of New York at New Paltz to vote as well, by tapping into the strong campus anti-war movement there where they played a strong leadership role. But this time, the local anti-war movement was not as strong as it was four years earlier when the US-led invasion had just occurred; and with the U.S. occupation continuing seemingly indefinitely, students lacked the same sense of urgency that also carried them to the local polls four years before.

Looking back, West and Rotzler transformed village politics in their time in office. “What we did in four years was change the paradigm for elections around here,” said West. “Students won’t be ignored anymore; we’ve effectively brought half the village population back into the body politic. And maybe most importantly, people understand that it’s not just about water, sewer and potholes any more. You’ve got to keep the big picture in mind and you’ve got to act on that knowledge.”

Rather than being a rubber stamp for developers, West and Rotzler provided leadership on affordable housing and the environment, as well as West’s groundbreaking stance on conducting gay marriages, which drew him national attention until his practice was shut down by the state court. Because of his success, opponents were forced to adopt his agenda, while only running one candidate against him in 2007. Unfortunately, West’s Achilles heel was that Ñ motivated by his strong desire to make change and make change quickly Ñ he tended to move on issues too much by himself and be out ahead of his colleagues, managing to alienate several of his supporters on the Village Board. The fact that Rotzler herself decided not to seek re-election Ñ choosing to focus on her national Green Party work Ñ may also have weakened the get-out-the-vote operation. And as Tip O’Neill famously pointed out, you need to ask voters personally for their support, no matter how much good you have already done for them.

Reflecting back Rotzler added, “we were able to enact the Ten Key Values of the Green Party here, and as a result many neighboring communities now view New Paltz as a model for positive, effective local government. It will be exciting to see the projects initiated under Green leadership continue to thrive, not just in New Paltz, but elsewhere as well. I wholeheartedly believe we all need to act locally in order to achieve goals that will benefit society globally.”

Wisconsin Keeps On Winning
Seven Greens Gain Seats In April Elections
by Jill Bussiere and Ron Hardy, Wisconsin Green Party and Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

With seven victories in 2007, the number of Greens in the state holding elected office is now at an all-time high of 22.

The Wisconsin Green Party has been on a steady winning streak gaining elected local officials across the state. With seven victories in 2007, four whom were women, the number of Greens holding elected office statewide is now at an all-time high of 22.

It all started in 1986 when Wisconsin Greens David Conley and Frank Koehn were first elected as county board supervisors in the northern part of the state. In 1994, there were six Greens holding elected office in Wisconsin, and by 1998 there were ten. By 2006 the number more than doubled, with 21 Greens holding seats on county boards, city councils, school boards and town councils.

In 2007 that number continued to grow, even though several incumbents stepped down and most Greens are elected during even-numbered years, when seats for county boards are contested. Despite this, 16 Greens ran for local office across the state, the largest contingent ever seeking office in an odd-numbered year.

Incumbents Re-elected

Returned to office was Madison Common Council member Brenda Konkel, a well-known, respected community leader and political force, who ran unopposed for the second time in a row. Since she was first elected in 2001, Konkel has championed tenant rights, affordable housing and inclusive zoning ordinances. Re-elected three times, she has served as president of the Madison Common Council in 2004-2005 and today is also the executive director of the Tenant Resource Center and on the board of directors of the Social Justice Center and Community Shares of Wisconsin. In her spare time, she helps coordinate the national Green Officeholders Network.

Fellow incumbent Pete Karas of the Kenosha-Racine Green Party was first elected to the Racine Common Council in 2003, and was re-elected in 2005. There he used his role to fight for municipally-owned utilities forming the Bright Public Power Initiative, a citizen group with wide community support whose mission is to bring public power to his local area; and also diligently worked to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Greens to fight a high-profile, but unsuccessful campaign against new coal plants in the area.

Karas, who also serves as Board President of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, was outspoken against Wisconsin’s 2004 and 2006 proposed concealed carry legislation. He authored and got passed the first-ever municipal resolution in the nation opposing a state Carrying of Concealed Weapons (CCW) law before it became law. This effectively kicked off the statewide campaign against more gun violence and was instrumental in keeping Wisconsin as one of two states where people cannot carry hidden weapons in public places.

An often-heard voice on both local and Wisconsin radio and television, Karas has gained statewide notoriety for this work on gun violence issues, even forming a coalition of Wisconsin elected Greens to concurrently proposed local budget amendments to cover the costs to municipalities if a CCW law were to pass in the state.

Karas faced strong opposition in 2007 from an aggressive candidate in his self-described urban ‘middle America’ district, but held his seat with 53.3 percent of the vote despite being physically limited during the campaign due to recent spinal surgeries.

A third incumbent, Robbie Webber, has been serving on the Madison Common Council since 2003. In 2007 she joined the Greens and received the Four Lakes Green Party’s endorsement for the first time, after working with local Greens on issues like minimum wage. Facing a strong challenge from a local realtor, she was re-elected with 55.4 percent of the vote in one of Madison’s older, more desirable districts that includes some of the city’s highest property values, with a voting population made up of half students and half professors, business people and Madison’s “old money.” An outreach coordinator for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, Webber opposed urban sprawl by promoting increased public transit and bicycling, and by pedestrian and transit-oriented development and land use policies.

Four elected for the first time: in Madison, Oshkosh, and Stevens Point

In Madison, the election of first-timers Marsha Rummel and Brian Solomon increased the Green Party’s representation on the twenty-member Common Council from three seats to four. In District 6, one of the city’s politically greenest, Rummel won with 71.3 percent of the vote. Active in her local Marquette Neighborhood Association since 1994, and its president since 2002, Rummel is a strong advocate for neighborhood identity, voice and historic preservation. Her campaign focused on improving local water quality, creating living wage jobs, and keeping neighborhoods diverse and affordable. In addition, she brings prior governmental experience, having previously served on the city’s Inclusionary Zoning Advisory Oversight Committee and its Tax Increment Financing Policy Committee.

A member of the Madison Equal Opportunity Commission, Solomon was elected with 72 percent of the vote on a platform of bringing economic development (including family-supporting jobs) and equal opportunity to his district and Madison as a whole.

Like Rummel, Solomon brought a history of involvement in his local neighborhood organization, including changing the local Edgewood Park and Pleasure Drive from an auto throughway into a biking and pedestrian refuge. Solomon is also co-founder of the Wisconsin AIDS Ride, as well as founder of the Wisconsin Employment Transportation Assistance Program, which combined four state and federal funding sources to encourage municipalities to help their workers and employers overcome the spatial mismatches between where people work and live. Unlike the other Greens elected to the Common Council, Solomon did not seek the endorsement of the Four Lakes Green Party.

In Oshkosh, located 70 miles north west of Milwaukee, three of six Common Council seats are elected at large every year, in an area containing over 64,000 residents. Tony Palmeri finished second out of six candidates to become the first Green even on the Oshkosh City Council. A University of Wisconsin communication professor, Palmeri has co-hosted a local cable access program, a university radio program, writes a monthly column for the Fox Valley Scene, and maintains an award winning website, http://www.tonypalmeri.com.

Palmeri last ran for office in 2004 for state assembly against a Republican incumbent, Democratic challenger, and an independent. He received 8.8 percent of the vote, drawing accusations of ‘spoiler’ from the Democrats, when the Republican incumbent won with less than 50 percent for the first time ever. Despite this, less than three years later, Palmeri’s campaign for Common Council found support not only from Greens, but also social progressives and labor, as well as fiscally conservative blue-collar voters.

Palmeri’s primary campaign theme was open, accountable government, and especially transparency in regards to development schemes. This resonated so well that, following his stellar performance at the editorial board meeting and candidate forum of the local Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper, he even received that paper’s endorsement, despite that as an active blogger and local media critic, he frequently had criticized it for how it covered local issues.

In Stevens Point, former Wisconsin Green Party co-chair Amy Heart ran unopposed to earn a seat on the common council. A membership and outreach coordinator with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Heart also has a strong local electoral history. Months after earning 35 percent of the vote in a bid for mayor in 2003, she earned 16.5 percent of the vote and the endorsement of the Stevens Point Journal in a four-way special election for State Assembly in 2003.

Now in office, Heart hopes to add Stevens Point to the growing number of cities in the Eco-Municipality Network who “seek to develop an ecologically, economically and socially healthy community for the long term, using the Swedish Natural Step framework for sustainability as a guide, and a democratic, highly participative development process as the method.”

Incumbents Stepping Down

Four Wisconsin Greens did not seeking re-election in 2007, including Madison’s Brian Benford, Austin King and Shwaw Vang.

Up until 2003, Madison’s District 12 had been represented by a conservative aldermember, until Benford broke through and served the district for four years. Benford championed high profile citywide progressive causes like the minimum wage ordinance, inclusionary zoning and smoking ban, as well ‘in-district’ efforts to combat gang activity, keep local schools and make the local Warner Park Community Center more inclusive.

King was elected in 2003 at the age of 21, and re-elected in 2005 with 79 percent of the vote. In 2006, at the age of 24, he was elected Madison Common Council president, the youngest ever to serve in that role. In his two terms, he sponsored several public policy initiatives such as leading the Madison Fair Wage Campaign to the victorious adoption of the nation’s fourth municipal minimum wage, slated to rise to $7.75 per hour and be indexed to inflation thereafter. The success in Madison spread as Milwaukee, La Crosse, and Eau Claire followed suit, eventually leading to the first statewide increase in eight years. This resulted in more than 200,000 low-wage workers getting a pay increase in Wisconsin.

King also won passage of a landmark local tenants’ rights law allowing tenants with negligent landlords to make needed repairs to dilapidated housing and deduct the cost from their rent. He even helped repeal Madison’s Prohibition-era Cabaret License law, which has prohibited dancing in more than 80 percent of Madison bars.

Also stepping down was Vang, who served six years on the Madison Metropolitan School Board. Highly respected for his quiet, thoughtful comments, Vang tirelessly made sure the voice of low income and minority students was heard. For example, Vang made it a priority for the board to reexamine how local schools treat students with behavioral problems. He said, “statistics shows most of the kids that receive punishment were youth of color, particularly African American students.”

In March 2006, many of Madison’s Latino students wanted to participate in a massive local march against proposed federal policies sponsored by Wisconsin Congressmember James Sensenbrenner, which would criminalize undocumented workers and those who assist them.

A special Board meeting was planned to vote on the matter, because it was not clear whether students could be excused from school if they attended. But the administration found that parents could provide a written excuse for their children to attend the rally, so the meeting was cancelled.

Vang felt the Board should have met anyway. “We have a very high local profile population of Latinos. We should have allowed them to speak out against policies that will split their families and send their parents back. And the Board should have affirmed our belief that if there are policies or state laws that are going to affect our students, we will speak on behalf of them. Those are valuable lessons that our community and schools should be teaching.”

Vang’s first election was also a historical milestone. Wisconsin has the third-largest Hmong population in the nation, behind California and Minnesota, with more than 800 Hmong students in the Madison School District. But since the late 1970s when the Hmong first began arriving in Madison as refugees of Laos, none held a visible public position until Vang was elected in 2001.

“Being able to serve on the school board affirmed that the Hmong people, the Southeast Asian people who had chosen to settle in Madison were now a part of the daily life of this city and that we were accepted as a part of this community,” Vang said.

In his first run, Vang won a close election with a team of grassroots activists distributing more than 25,000 leaflets across town. In 2004 he was re-elected with 70.8 percent against a well-funded extreme conservative challenger. Earlier he also survived a recall effort by right-wing activists promoted by Rush Limbaugh. Vang said he might run for office again in the future. “I’d love to run for a political office where I may deal more with social issues.”

Legal Challenge Changes Arkansas Ballot Access Law
Greens Assert Their Rights
by Mark Swaney, Green Party of Arkansas

There was no “legitimate state purpose” to having different standards for independent compared to partisan candidates.

One of the greatest challenges the Green Party faces across the United States are ballot access laws written by Democrats and Republicans aimed at excluding alternative voices so they are not heard.

In Arkansas this year, those laws are in flux as a direct result of a Green Party challenge. Formerly, in order to qualify for the ballot, the state of Arkansas required new political parties to collect signatures from a number of valid registered voters equal to 3 percent of the vote in the previous governor’s race. For the 2006 election, that number was 24,171 signatures.

However on June 27, 2006 the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project filed a suit, Green Party of Arkansas v Daniels, in Federal Court against this law. The ACLU argued that since Arkansas had already deemed that 10,000 signatures was enough of a “modicum of support” for an independent candidate not affiliated with a party to qualify for the ballot, the state could not require more from a candidate that was from a political party.

Previously on May 30, 2006 the Green Party of Arkansas had submitted more than 18,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to qualify for party status, but the state refused to check them. With presumably at least 10,000 of them valid, the ACLU sought an injunction against the Arkansas signature law with the goal of obtaining ballot status for Green gubernatorial candidate Jim Lendall.

U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. agreed and granted the injunction, arguing there was no “legitimate state purpose” to having different standards for independent compared to partisan candidates.

In the case of ballot access laws, which have only existed for a relatively short time in America, the only “legitimate state purpose” to make any restriction whatsoever on the number of persons or parties allowed to be printed on the ballot is to prevent “voter confusion” by demonstrating a party or candidate has a “modicum of support.” The federal courts have left it up to state legislatures to decide what a “modicum of support” should be in that state. As Arkansas had previously determined that a modicum of support for an independent candidate was 10,000 signatures, they are not free to define it differently for a political party candidate.

In what appears to be a partisan response however, the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Arkansas state legislature (75 Democrats, 25 Republicans), supported by the Democratic secretary of state, passed a new ballot access law in March of this year, HB2353, cutting the time to gather the 10,000 signatures from the 150 days allowed under the 3 percent signature law, to only 60 days. The bill’s proponents claimed this was because the independent candidates were only allowed 60 days to gather their 10,000 signatures, despite the fact only one independent candidate had ever qualified for the ballot under this law. The bill was approved 66-23 and removes the existing law’s provision that allows a party 15 days to gather additional signatures if petitions are rejected by the secretary of state.

Even though Arkansas has had fewer minor party and independent candidates on the ballot for governor and U.S. senator than any other state, during 1980-2004 the legislature declined to pass a compromise bill, advocated by the ACLU and the Green Party of Arkansas. This compromise bill would have allowed 120 days to both political party and independent candidates.

According to 2006 Arkansas Green attorney general candidate Rebekah Kennedy “the clear motive for this new ballot access law was to continue to make it difficult to put new political party candidates on the ballot. As a result, there is ample reason to believe the new law is unconstitutional because of the legislature’s clear intent to protect a political monopoly of the one political party — the Demopublicans!” Lendall, who testified against the bill agreed, “this would not benefit voters, particularly those who feel disenfranchised under the status quo.”

According to Kennedy, the Green Party of Arkansas believes it can succeed in its ballot access efforts despite this new law, and intends to place several candidates on the 2008 general election ballot, including Kennedy for U.S. Senate and several others for U.S. House. At the same time, the party is keeping its options open for a challenge to the new law in court.

Democrats Tighten Noose On Nader In Punitive Attack On “Third Party” Candidates
by Michael Richardson

“Major party interests naturally lean more toward rigging and sabotaging than insuring fair and competitive fights.”
– Mark Brown

The Democrats are tightening the financial noose around Ralph Nader for his failed bid to obtain ballot access in Pennsylvania during his 2004 Presidential campaign. Nader had been deprived a place on the ballot after extensive litigation brought by the Democrats, and was later assessed a hefty $89,821 penalty by the Pennsylvania courts to be paid to the Democrats for court-related costs. Nader appealed the assessment and was recently denied a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. Emboldened, lawyers for the Democrats have now entered the costly order as a final judgment in an ongoing effort to enforce the penalty.

A Nader campaign attorney says about the post-election vendetta, “They have overreached and gone way too far. It is unprecedented.” The obvious chilling effect on independents and minor party candidates is not lost on Carl Romanelli, the 2006 Green Party would-be candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Romanelli, too, has been hit by the Democrats with a huge bill for their costs in removing him from the ballot and has been ordered to pay $89,668.

If successful in Pennsylvania, Democrat legislators around the country will likely introduce similar punitive election laws in other states, particularly “swing” states, in a preventive effort to keep independents and minor party candidates off the ballot.

Capital University law professor Mark Brown has studied the 2004 legal wrangling that took Nader off the ballot in Pennsylvania and recently published a law review article on the affair. Brown discovered that the judge who favored the Democrats may have been motivated by animus toward Nader’s candidacy.

Nader needed 25,697 signatures on his nomination petitions to get a spot on the Pennsylvania ballot and submitted approximately 52,000. A week after filing the petitions the Secretary of State accepted Nader’s nomination after tossing about 5,000 signatures for various reasons. That same day, August 9, 2004, eight Democrat “objectors” represented by 24 lawyers challenged some 37,000 of the remaining signatures. After weeks of legal wrangling eleven judges were assigned the monumental task of a line-by-line review of Nader’s petitions.

Judge James Collins, who assessed the $89,821 bill, led the review declaring Nader’s petitions were “rife with forgeries” and that “this signature gathering process was the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this Court.” Collins alleged “thousands of names” were “created at random”. Justice Saylor of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed. He declared the Nader campaign had not engaged in any kind of “systemic” fraud and only 687 signatures out of 51,273 had actually been rejected for forgery.

Brown has discovered that Judge Collins personally ruled that 568 of the 687 purported forgeries were fraudulent leaving the other ten judges to find only 119 forgeries. Collins and two of the other reviewing judges discarded thousands of signatures on very “technical and complicated” criteria including a missing middle initial, use of ditto marks, or mixing printing with cursive writing. Collins ended up rejecting 70 percent of the 10,794 signatures he reviewed.

Brown wrote in his law review article, “Moreover, the eleven judges who reviewed Nader’s signature submissions apparently employed different standards to invalidate signatures at alarmingly different rates.” In a footnote, Brown notes that 3,500 signatures were invalidated for unstated reasons.

Brown writes there was a “concerted Democratic program to purge Nader from the presidential ballot.” Further, “The lesson to be drawn from the 2004 presidential race is that neither major party can be trusted to police a general election ballot. Major party interests naturally lean more toward rigging and sabotaging than insuring fair and competitive fights.”

“The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court pressed just under a dozen judges into service at different locations over the course of two weeks to canvass 52,000 signatures submitted by the Nader campaign. This pushed the Nader campaign beyond its legal and technical capacity.

“Forcing lawyers to scramble among a dozen courtrooms in as many days to uphold an agency’s decision authorizing ballot access is neither measured nor productive. The practice is not only constitutionally objectionable, but it also facilitates a moneyed effort to veto a political outsider’s participation in the electoral arena,” Brown said.

Ralph Nader is still reviewing his options regarding the costly and punitive order issued by Judge Collins to punish his bid for public office.

Brown concludes his analysis of the Democratic legal attack on Nader, “I suspect that as long as America’s political system rewards an empty lust for power, politicians and judges will continue to turn blind eyes to fair procedures.”

Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. In 2004 Richardson was Ralph Nader’s national ballot access coordinator.

Greening The Campus
College Trustee Advocates For Environment And Justice
by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

With the increasingly pressing dangers of global warming, and with buildings places where great progress can be made in the reduction of energy use, more and more Green Party candidates are promoting ways to ‘green’ the built environment.

With the opportunities for change inherent in public policy choices, some of the best chances to do this come on college campuses, as board of trustees are often able to directly approve green building standards for new construction.

Apparently many voters agree. On April 3, Vahe Peroomian became the second Green Party member in 17 months to be elected to a college board in Los Angeles County. Peroomian won re-election to the Glendale Community College (GCC) Board of Trustees, having first assumed the seat through appointment in June 2005.

Glendale is a community that has already embraced green building, and Peroomian’s presence on the Board further affirms that. With GCC poised to spend bond money approved in 2002 for campus expansion, Peroomian supports all new buildings being held to LEED Platinum standards. LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. Platinum is its highest rating.

In addition to the environment, Peroomian is also about equity of opportunity. He seeks to find innovative solutions to the prohibitive cost of textbooks for students, including directing the College to standardize textbooks for introductory courses and identifying free/online resources for as many classes as possible.

He also advocates more online courses for students unable to attend college during traditional class hours, as well as vocational programs that serve the needs of students and the Glendale business community Ñ and has taken the initiative to better identify how to do just that.

Peroomian also believes that College faculty and staff should better reflect Glendale’s diversity. While GCC’s student population almost exactly reflects the ethnic proportions in the city: 35-40 percent Armenian and 20 percent Latino, he feels the number of Armenian and Latino faculty members is too few, and advocates advertising open positions in ethnic newspapers and TV programs, so those respective communities would be more aware of existing opportunities.

Understanding that education is dependent upon state and national government support, Peroomian pointed to the endorsement of his candidacy by both local State Assemblymember Paul Krekorian and Anthony Portantino, Assembly Chair of Committee on Higher Education Ñ whose districts coincide with the that of GCC Ð as well local Congressional member Adam Schiff.

Looking to next year, Peroomian supports Californians for Community Colleges, a statewide constitutional amendment for the June 2008 ballot. The three-pronged ballot measure would 1) address structural deficits in the funding of community colleges by providing them an independent source of funding; 2) reduce student fees to $20 per unit and put a cap on future increases and 3) give local Board of Trustees more authority by establish California Community Colleges in the state constitution.

Outside of elected office, Peroomian, 42, obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from UCLA in 1994. He is an Associate Research Geophysicist at UCLA specializing in space plasma physics and space weather, with funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation. He also teaches freshman physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA.

Peroomian became a Green around the time of the 2000 election, because he felt that “neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are properly serving our people. Many of my beliefs are exactly those advocated by the Green Party, including universal health care, social justice, and living wages.”

Coming from an Armenian family, Peroomian is also active in the Armenian National Committee, which is the largest grassroots Armenian-American political entity, and he sees a parallel between his involvement there and the Green party’s grassroots efforts.

Glendale has the highest percentage of Armenians of any city in the United States, and is home to the third largest Armenian community (approximately 80,000) outside of Armenia overall, after Moscow and Los Angeles.

Between 2002 and 2006, Peroomian traveled back to Armenia seven times. A talented photographer whose works have been featured in several exhibitions, he chronicled that experience on his web site http://www.vahep.com. Evidencing his love of nature and landscapes, his site also features numerous photos of Yosemite National Park and other such places.

Next door to Glendale is the city of Pasadena, where in November 2005, fellow Green Hilary Bradbury-Huang was elected to the Pasadena Community College Board of Trustees. Also an advocate for green building standards and better connecting the business and education community, Bradbury-Huang beat a 27-year incumbent Republican to win her seat. Born in Ireland, she was originally introduced to the Green Party while living in Germany in the 1980s.

With Peroomian’s re-election, eight Greens holding now elected office in Los Angeles County. Along with Jackson County, Oregon this is the second-highest in the nation behind Cumberland County, Maine which has ten.

Pullano Campaign for Mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania

Reading, Pennsylvannia is not just hosting this year’s national meeting. It is also home to an energized Green campaign for mayor. Jennaro Pullano, the endorsed Berks County Green Party candidate has already achieved a great deal of success in his seven months of campaigning.

With the May primaries over, Pullano is looking to beat Democratic incumbent Tom McMahon, who only received a third of the votes from his party, and unsuccessful perennial Republican candidate Keith Stamm.

“This looks really good for me,” said Pullano. “Our campaign has been out on the streets, talking to over a thousand super voters, which is 10 percent of the voters who vote in every election. There is also a lot of dissatisfaction with the current administration. In April and May we are already polling near 50 percent with those voters. And it’s spring, early summer, remember!”

Dave Baker, Pullano’s campaign consultant, stated, “People remember us from two years ago, when we nearly won a city council seat with 48 percent of the vote. We also reached out to a lot of voters last year, when we attempted to have Pullano appointed to that council seat, when the sitting councilperson decided to step down. A lot of the people in that district didn’t appreciate the council appointing the mayor’s former secretary. This can only help strengthen us come November.”

A recent highlight to the campaign was an appearance by Pullano on local community television during primary night. Pullano presented what he as a candidate for mayor wants to see done. His message reverberated with the viewers as several call-ins contributed their agreement and support. The campaign is working to have a clip from the TV spot up on the website. “I hit that one out of the park,” Pullano beamed as he walked off the set.

One main snag is the strain of the national Green Party annual conference on the local Greens. With four Berks Greens and several PA Greens preoccupied with the July event, some volunteering efforts for the local campaigns have been weak Pullano said, “We still need to speak to eight thousand or so Reading super voters, shake their hands and let them know we are here. Our finances to produce literature and achieve campaign goals are not up to the level we need to be successful. The convention is definitely hurting our abilities to excel in these areas We are hoping some of the visiting NC delegates will be inspired by what we are doing, and come out to give us an hour or two on the streets and spread the word, by going back to doors or phone-banking and speaking to voters where we have only dropped literature.”

For information: www.pullanoformayor.org

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