Mike DeRosa, Green Party of Connecticut and Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

For the first time in four years, the New Haven Board of Aldermen (City Council) has a Green alderman. Allan Brison was sworn in on January 1st, 2008, along with the other 29 elected members of the Board of Aldermen, at Beecher Primary School wearing a green tie loaned to him by his fellow New Haven Green Party co-chair Charlie Pillsbury.

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In the November 6th election, Brison trounced incumbent Democrat Edward Mattison in a two-way race 386 votes to 283 (57.7%). Mattison had been Ward 10 Alderman for 6 years and on election night was observed by supporters to be shocked as the numbers from the precincts came in.

Brison told the Green Party of Connecticut’s Green Times that he had “beat a well entrenched political insider who has never voted against a significant piece of legislation proposed by long-time Democratic Mayor John DeStefano.” New Haven Greens have long apposed the city’s strong mayor/weak council system of government, which they feel overly concentrates power in the hands of the mayor and by extension, the Democratic Town Committee chair.

Not only was Brison’s victory the first for a Green in four years, but it was the first against an incumbent alderman in a regular election. The last Greens to be elected were John Halle (Ward 9) and Joyce Chen (Ward 2) and both were elected to open seatsHalle in a July 2001 special election and Chen in a November 2001 regular election.

Brison’s lively campaign included participating in two debates, along with an active door-to-door campaign in Ward 10 in both the more affluent area of the ward and in the lower income Cedar Hill section near State Street.

Brison focused on the lack of independence in the Board of Education. Appointed by the Mayor, the School Board is too open to political interference, according to Brison. He recommends an elected Board of Education

An even more glaring problem is the lack of oversight of a police department that has been under investigation for allegedly planting drugs, and then falsely arresting someone who subsequently went to jail for many years, as well as falsifying overtime pay to increase retirement benefits. Brison recommends more oversight on the Police Department by the Board of Aldermen

Brison observed that while “gentrification of the downtown may make it look good, it has also driven people out of the city.” Brison favors a more humane type of economic development that will use small loans to en courage sustainable business development in the downtown area that truly serves local needs.

By contrast, according to Brison, de Stefano has promoted redevelopment that is not in the long-term economic interest of New Haven residents, instead favoring big developers who are given tax exemptions and then exit the city after they’ve benefited, leaving the city holding the bag.

Brison has also opposed what he be lieves is Yale University’s unilateralism in New Haven’s development and cultural and intellectual life. Its annual four million dollar donation vastly understates its real tax impact on the community. With a $22 billion endowment and several profit-making arms that are not taxed, Yale should do more, maintains Brison, to help pay the community’s cost in addressing poverty, unemployment and crime.

On the city’s streets, Brison wants the developments of carbon-free transportation that would include the greater use of bicycles, including setting aside a bike-only street, along with more bike lanes and the development of the fleet of public bicycles.

After receiving a higher percentage of the vote in his own ward than the May or, Brison enters the Board of Aldermen with the hope of making astriking economic and social contrast. About a third of the Board is generally progressive, he feels, and “depending upon the issue, additional coalitions can be built to do the public’s business, and perhaps green New Haven in the process.”

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Mike DeRosa, Green Party of Connecticut and Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

In her third run for First Selectman of Windham (population 24,000) Jean de Smet defied local political experts by winning the town’s top elected office, defeating the three-term incumbent Democrat Michael Paulhus 1637 votes to 1514, with Republican Harry Carboni finishing a distant third with 471.

In Connecticut the office of First Selectman is the chief executive and administrative officer for most towns with the selectmen-town meeting form of government, and in Windham the First Select man is thus responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the town. Along with the ten members of the Board of Select man, the First Selectman also makes up the Town’s legislative body.

Because of the overly partisan nature of local elections in this highly Democratic town, de Smet (pronounced des May) joined independent dissident Democrats and Republicans in declining to list a party affiliation on the ballot. As a result, they became called the “Bottom Line Slate” because without a party affiliation, their names were all listed on the bottom of the ballot.

In an interview with the Green Party of Connecticut’s state newsletter Green Times, de Smet said her candidacy offered a “positive leadership” that emphasized “hope and working together.” The moving force behind a hugely successful series of inclusive and participatory street festivals in Windham (Willimantic’s 3rd Thursday Street Fests), de Smet’s activism led to rising expectations that the community could take back Windham from the “old boy network” that has run and ruined the town over the decades.

Her campaign emphasized sustainable economic development through supporting existing local businesses and historic preservation, while developing new, entrepreneurial startups, tourism and arts and entertainment in order to revitalize the town’s downtown, which has lost several important businesses over the last decade. She also advocated partnerships with the University of Connecticut and Eastern CT State University (ECSU) and, at her first post-election Board of Selectman meeting, suggested the ECSU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy as a logical place for the development of a “energy efficiency zone” in Windham.

In a town with a per capita income just under $17,000 and about 13% of local families below the poverty line, affordable housing was also a key campaign issue for de Smet. She was critical of the town’s proposed Main Street development project, which she argued followed the usual “gentrification” project approach that puts forward tax breaks to big developers while eliminating affordable housing.

De Smet also opposed the Zoning Board approval of the Cedarwoods project, which moved supportive housing as far as possible outside of the town’s downtown onto previously undeveloped land. After assuming office,  she took advantage of a rarely used section of the town’s charter that allows the First Selectman to vote at town board and commission meetings, to provide a protest vote against the project.

Using her power of appointment to Windham’s commissions, advisory boards, and other committees de Smet promised to appoint more grassroots residents in order to build greater citizen participation and promote  consensus in local government, including firmly establishing a fully-appointed Town Energy Commission for the first time. Hoping to turn Town Hall into a public service, one of the first things de Smet changed within City Hall after being sworn in was to ensure that the minutes of the Board of Selectman were published on the city’s web site.

A union Master Electrician for 28 years and two-term union officer with IBEW Local 35, de Smet will have to give up her job to assume the full time responsibilities as the town’s Chief Executive. She will have the distinction of being Windham’s last first selectman. At the same time she was elected, Windham’s voters approved a town manager/town council (with a mayor) form of government that will go into effect with the 2009 elections.

De Smet is the only Green among 11 selectman, while local Democrats have seven seats, but thus far they’ve worked with de Smet in her first few months in office.

The pejorative phrase “the quiet corner” has been often applied to northeast Connecticut by neglectful politicians and academics who have failed to address the regions true potential. After the election of Jean de Smet perhaps the northeast corner will be called “the activists’ corner.”

Chicago, Illinois
Thursday, July 10 – Sunday, July 13

Schedule
(subject to change)

THURSDAY, JULY 10—PALMER HOUSE HILTON
12–7 pm    Registration / Delegate Credentialing
1–2:45 pm    Workshops, committees and caucuses
3–4:45 pm    Workshops, committees and caucuses

5–7 pm    Break

7–9:30 pm    Opening / Welcoming Reception

FRIDAY, JULY 11—PALMER HOUSE HILTON
8 am–10 pm    Registration / Delegate Credentialing
9 am–12 pm    Platform Committee Hearings
9 am–1 0:30 am    Workshops, committees and caucuses
10:45 am–12 pm    Workshops, committees and caucuses

12 pm–1 pm    Break

1 pm–5 pm    National Coordinating Committee
1:45 pm–3:15 pm    Workshops, committees and caucuses
3:30 pm–5 pm    Workshops, committees and caucuses

5 pm–6 pm    Break

6 pm–7:45 pm    Presidential Candidate Forum
8 pm    Caucuses, presidential candidate campaign events (if any)

SATURDAY, JULY 12—CHICAGO SYMPHONY CENTER
7–8:30 am    Breakfast at Palmer House (included)
8:30–9 am    Doors Open at Symphony Center
9–12 pm    National Nominating Convention

12–1 pm    Lunch at Symphony Center (included)

1–5 pm    Nominating Convention continues

Note: the exact schedule will be determined after Floor Voting rules
have been approved by National Committee. Tentative plans are in process for an evening event, such as a concert, at a separate venue.

SUNDAY, JULY 13—PALMER HOUSE HILTON
7– 8:30 am    Breakfast at Palmer House (included)
9 am–Noon    National Coordinating Committee
9–10:30 am    Workshops, caucuses and committees
10:45 am–Noon    Workshops, caucuses and committees

Registration
Registration Fee – $225.00
Registration fee includes three meals: Saturday breakfast, Saturday lunch, and Sunday breakfast.
For group reservations, please contact the GP office at 202-319-7191 or toll free at 866-41GREEN.

Additional donations above the fee can be made to help support diversity waivers and more.

Note: as of June 15, the late registration fee will be $275.

Housing
The headquarter hotel for the 2008 GPUS Presidential Nominating Convention is the Palmer House Hilton, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, about 2 blocks from the Chicago Symphony Center, the site of the nominating convention to be held on Saturday July 12th.

The majority of events are being held at the Palmer House Hilton, including National Committee meetings, platform hearings, workshops and a presidential candidate forum.  Make your reservations for the Palmer House by calling them directly at 1-877-865-5321.

Please use the Green Party’s code “GRP” and mention the Green Party of the United States.

The Palmer House Hilton
17 East Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603
312-726-7500
http://www.hiltonfamilychicago.com

Hotel Room Information:
Singles are $205 a night; Doubles are $230; Triples are $250 and Quads are $270. Prices do not include applicable taxes. The hotel requires the first night as a deposit in order to confirm a room reservation. Checks and major credit cards are acceptable to establish prepayment.

Other Accommodations:
The Arlington House International Hostel is located in Lincoln Park, close to both the EL and bus lines. Shared dormitory and private rooms are available.

Please check back periodically for more lodging information.  There will soon be a lodging sharing board on the local website.

For more information about the Chicago Symphony Center, please visit www.cso.org

Dave Lussier Misses New York County Election by Only 11 Votes
Mark Dunlea, Green Party of New York State

Dave Lussier, the Green Party candidate for Albany County Legislature (7th District) in New York, narrowly missed an opportunity to become one of only three Greens in 2007 elected in a partisan election. (In many states, only state and federal offices are partisan i.e., where candidates ran with party affiliation on the ballot. However in New York State, municipal and county elections are also partisan, making such elections even more challenging for local Greens).

On election night, Lussier held a 5-vote lead, 531 to 526, against the Dem o cratic challenger, Brian Scavo. But Scavo eventually won by eleven votes when paper and absentee ballots were counted. However, several ballots showed clear evidence of election fraud by Scavo (his handwriting showed he personally filled out ballots and misspelled the word “vacation” on two). But it wasn’t sufficient to overturn the election results.

Lussier, 31, is getting his Masters in Urban Studies. “One of the reasons for our success was that people are starting to grasp the importance of environmental issues. Global warming is part of it but they responded to issues like recycling, more bike paths and green energy. We gave them concrete examples of how green values could translate into beneficial action for their community,” Lussier said.

The 7th District spanned four different neighborhoods. Lussier won 3 of them, carrying the working class, student, and middle-class African-American areas. Scavo won the fourth, older white homeowners who voted against the city schools and property taxes, even though that isn’t the responsibility of the County Legislature.

Two years ago, Lussier pulled more than 30% of the vote, finishing second in a four-way partisan race for Albany City Council, District 11. This high vote is significant as Albany is the home of the most successful Democratic machine in the US, with a record of electoral success outstripping that of Chicago.

A former vice-chair of his local neighborhood association, Lussier works in construction. He handed out tulips to voters as part of his neighborhood beautification efforts. “Dealing with the problem of abandoned buildings in Albany has always been a top priority,” said Lussier. “I want them fixed up and put back into the hands of local residents who are invested in building a better community. The county also needs to do more to promote health care for all as a way to control Medicaid costs, and ensure a living wage to all county workers.” He added, “This campaign highlights that every vote does indeed count. I want to thank every voter in this election who made time to participate.”

Scavo’s track record of harassment of local residents, particularly young women, became a big issue during his campaign; many neighborhood leaders and even some Democratic party officials decided to back the Greens. The local alternative newspaper the Metroland ran exposs on Scavo and endorsed Lussier, stating “Lussier might be a little bright-eyed but there is no doubt that Lussier is the best man for the job. Lussier wants to ensure people have a reason to live in Albany County, and deal with the county’s abandoned-buildings problem. Plus, Lussier shines when compared to his Democratic opponent Brian Scavo. Two years ago when running for Albany Common Council, Scavo invited our then-news editor, Miriam Axel-Lute, on a date during an interview. But besides his questionable behavior, Scavo has campaigned on issues such as fixing Albany schools and reducing crime that he would have no control over as a county legislator. Lussier is quite simply the only choice on election day in the 7th District.”

Peter LaVenia, co-chair of the Green Party of New York State, remarked Lussier’s campaign was one the best organized in New York. They had a strong doorknocking campaign to do voter identification, and spent a lot of time making sure the information was kept up to date in a computer database. They had a target goal of 500 votes and managed to bring in a few more, as the turnout was unusually high. Throughout the afternoon and evening volunteers were checking the voting lists at the polling places and going door to door to make sure Lussier’s voters got out. Neighborhood residents were running out of their houses at 8 p.m. to ask the Green volunteers, “Hey, do you know if my neighbor has voted yet? Otherwise, I’ll go get him for you.”

“The door-to-door work was key. The machine takes too many voters for granted. We fell just short, but we showed that it is possible to beat the Democrats in Albany. Their air of invincibility is gone and it means that progressives can’t get away any longer arguing they agree with the Greens on the issues but can’t support us because we can’t win,” added Lussier.

Lussier had also been one of the founding members of the Green House movement in Albany, where young people lived together in a house and took on neighborhood projects such as distributing food, cleaning up vacant lots and opposing large corporate developments that would evict existing residents. Lussier’s new project is building snow people protestors throughout the neighborhood. “Snowmen and women have rights too,” he noted. “They have been out protesting global warming and no wars for oil. Snow people are a fun way to get people’s attention.”

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by Jody Grage, Treasurer of Green Party of the United States

Money has got a bad rap. We recoil from the word that has such close associations with greed, power, and inequality. Filthy lucre -moneybags – usury – made of money – the almighty dollar. The role of money in politics has been especially negative. Buying votes – war chests – the military-industrial complex – spiraling national debt – corporate domination.

Yet money is basically a neutral means of exchange. There are positive words associated with money, too. Solvent – thrifty – making ends meet – savings – investment.

Money can be used for good too. The necessities of food, clothing, and shelter – education – health care – charitable donations – appropriate rewards and incentives – micro-lending such as through the Grameen Bank – sustainable agriculture – wilderness preservation – but I digress.

Money plays a role in Green politics, but we are uncomfortable with that idea. Yet, for Green politics to grow into a mighty force for good and the 10 Key Values, we must increase the amount of money we have available. To do that, we have to change our thinking. And get busy now.

What are good Green uses for money? Candidate support – ballot access drives – lawyer fees – office staff – field organizers – campaign schools – Internet upgrades – literature – media – outreach. And that is just for starters! It would be nice if dreaming about the possibilities would get us there, but that has not been shown to work.

The urgent questions are: What do we want to accomplish in 2008? How much money will it take to do it? How do we get to that level? How are we going to develop the skills, knowledge, and approach that will enable us to raise the money we need in 2008? Where do we begin?

Perhaps most urgent of all: Who is going to do it? How can each of us take at least some personal responsibility for working toward our essential fundraising goals?

We must increase our fundraising abilities both institutionally and personally. Institutionally at the national level we need to work toward a full-time fundraising director, create an interactive on-line database, and extend resources for ongoing database development and updates There also needs to be more programs and events to grow the donor database, distribute a wider range of well-designed demographically targeted literature, and a coordinated advertising plan.

At the state level, the number and variety of state sharing programs should increase as more ideas to make use of this cooperative effort come forward. We need to recognize the interconnection with state and national fundraising efforts and the benefits to state and local Green Parties of increased institutional capacity at the national level.

Skills and knowledge learned at one level can be used at all levels. Fundraising expertise acquired at a GPUS workshop this July, for example, can be used at the local, state, and national levels.

Personally we must accept we are the Green Party. At times when that responsibility seems too much, it helps me to realize that even then there is nothing else I would rather be doing – and a lot of the company is pretty good. The Green Party doesn’t accept money from corporations, so WE are all we have got.

Share your thoughts, ideas, and strategies. And see you in Reading in July – where there will be lots of talk about goals and money!

Back In Government
Finland’s Greens Enter National Coalition Once Again
by Panu Laturi, Party Secretary, Vihreät-De Gröna (Finnish Green Party)

For the first time since 2002, when it left coalition government over the Finnish parliament’s decision to approve construction of a new nuclear power plant, Vihreät-De Gröna (the Greens) is back in coalition government.

After receiving 8.5 percent of the vote in the March 18 General Elections and increasing the number of seats from 14 to 15 in the 200-member Finnish parliament, Vihreät entered into negotiations to form a new government together with the Centre Party, (51 seats), the right-wing National Coalition Party (50 seats), and the Swedish People’s Party (9 seats).

Such a potential coalition, based primarily upon the Centre and National Coalition parties, became the natural base for forming the government after the Social Democratic Party lost heavily in the March elections, falling from 53 to 45 seats. But this placed the Greens in a new situation, because from 1995 to 2002 – when Vihreät was part of the government in a five-party coalition – the government contained both right-wing and left-wing parties. Now there were only right-wing.

But that didn’t stop Vihreät from pursuing negotiations to form a government, because during the election they said that the parties in the government are not the main issue, but rather what issues are contained in the government’s program.

During its General Election campaign, Vihreät’s manifesto defined ‘Green’ as standing for “courage, responsibility and justice. The party’s main issues were ‘supporting the poorest in society and families’, including through advocating a guaranteed basic income, as well as addressing climate change through promoting sustainable energy use through conservation and renewable sources.

Entering negotiations Vihreät had five main goals: Vihreät would be allowed to oppose nuclear power in the government and in parliament; there would be a move towards establishing a basic income, implemented through the Social Security program; ecological taxes would begin; that no environmental legislation would be weakened; and the two highly controversial and environmentally destructive Kollaja and Vuotos dams would not be built, dams the nation’s environmental movement has been fighting for years.

Negotiations on behalf of Vihreät were led by party chair Tarja Cronberg, parliamentary group leader Heidi Hautala and party secretary Ari Heikkinen. After five days of difficult negotiations, Vihreät got agreement on its key points. Then the agreement was put to a vote of the party’s National Council as well as its parliamentary group and both groups approved it by consensus.

As part of the agreement, Vihreät also received two ministers in the coalition deal – both women – as Cronberg, 61, became Labor Minister and Green MP Tuija Brax, 44, Justice Minister. In addition to these ministerial posts, Green MP Oras Tynkkynen, 29, was appointed Special adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change.

Among the Green MPs are also Hautala and former European Green spokesperson Pekka Haavisto, who in recent years spent time with the United Nations in Afghanistan, as European Union Special Representative in Sudan, and from 1995-1999 was Finnish Minister of Environment and Development Aid.

Overall the parliamentary group contains ten women and five mean, with five members of the group under 32. Overall, Vihreät ran 202 candidates in the parliamentary elections, of which 107 (53 percent) were women. The average age of was 40.4 years, with the youngest 19 and the oldest 68. On the city council level, the last local elections were held in 2004 and the Greens gained 7.4 percent of the votes and 314 councillor seats. On the European level, the Greens have one member of the European Parliament, Satu Hassi.

Finnish Greens Enter Coalition With Pro-Nuclear Parties
by Oras Tynkkynen, Green member of Finnish Parliament

The Finnish Greens have not and will not support or sanction any nuclear projects whatsoever.
– Oras Tynkkynen

In 2002 the Finnish parliament voted 107 to 92 to approve a fifth nuclear reactor. Immediately afterward, in protest, the Finnish Green Party Vihreät left the five-party coalition government of which it had been a member of since 1995.

Today, despite being the only party represented in the Finnish parliament that is unanimously opposed to nuclear power (apart from a marginal far-right group), Vihreät recently entered into coalition government with two large pro-nuclear parties – the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. How can Vihreät reconcile this with its anti-nuclear stance?

The Finnish Greens have always opposed, currently oppose and will continue to oppose building new nuclear power capacity. Its position is crystal-clear although it has not always been successful in communicating that position in the media.

The biggest debate in Finland’s Green Party has revolved around whether it can enter a government that may, or is likely to, give permission to a new nuclear project. While there are slightly differing voices within the party, the mainstream view has been that it should be ready to enter even a pro-nuclear government.

Why on Earth? Firstly, not a single nuclear reactor will be stopped by the Greens voluntarily staying out of, or leaving, the government. The government would still retain its majority even if it lost the support of the 15 Green MPs. The parliament will have the final say in approving new nuclear projects and the pro-nuclear majority would not change regardless of whether Vihreät is in the government or in the opposition.

Secondly, the only way to stop nuclear projects in the long run is to achieve a paradigm shift in energy policy. The party needs to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency ambitiously. Inside the government it will have a better chance to shift energy policy to a greener direction.

Thirdly, being Green is a lot more than opposing nuclear power – providing social security to all, protecting minority rights, promoting energy efficiency and renewables, fighting for gender equality and reducing poverty. As much as nuclear power is opposed, the party has the moral obligation to work for progress in other political fields as well.

Regarding nuclear power, the government program states (rough translation):

“No zero- or low-emission or emission-neutral, sustainable and economically productive energy form, including nuclear power, shall be excluded, but all energy forms will be investigated based on the general interests of the society.”

This tongue-twisting exercise is in verbatim the same formulation that was unanimously accepted by the parliament in 2006. It is also in essence the same that was accepted during Vihreät’s previous government tenure under the previous Social Democratic Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s governments I and II. In other words, the new government’s program is not any more pro-nuclear than those of its predecessors.

When interpreting the paragraph, the Greens underline the last part. The government does not ban any energy forms a priori, but rather is willing to investigate all possibilities and draw conclusions after a careful analysis of pro’s and con’s. According to this view, nuclear power is clearly not in the general interests of the society, so more should not be built. The pro-nuclear parties in the government have a different view, but the program does not, per se, mandate or call for building nuclear power.

The Greens have always openly stated that they will vote against any new nuclear projects both in the government and in the parliament. Should the government get an application from the industry for a sixth nuclear reactor, they will keep their promise and vote against it.

Thus the Finnish Greens have not and will not support or sanction any nuclear projects whatsoever.

Oras Tynkkynen first ran for Finnish parliament in 1999 at 21. While not elected, he became a deputy member of parliament in 2003 and when Green MP Satu Hassi was elected to the European Parliament in summer 2004, he assumed her seat, becoming the youngest and first openly gay member of the Finnish parliament.

For more information: www.orastynkkynen.fi