The Green Party, Part I: Local Leadership

Liberals and the progressive left have long been slandered, ridiculed, and misrepresented by the rightwing. Fox News and the radicals on talk radio have made careers for themselves distorting what liberals believe. As political parties go, the Green Party is the third largest party in the country. However, rarely do we see Green Party representatives or prominent members of the so called “professional left” on the air waves. This three part series on the Green Party will look at the 10 Key Values of the party and interview current elected Green Party government office holders. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a member of the Green Party for twenty years.

In my home town of Sebastopol, California Green Party member Larry Robinson has served on the City Council for twelve years. Robinson is a retired psychotherapist and school principle. In addition, he has been involved in several non-profit organizations providing counseling and social services to Sonoma counties needy. Talk to Robinson today and you will find him extremely excited about planning for the long term sustainability of the community. Robinson talks about the importance of avoiding urban sprawl by building vertically instead of horizontally. He points to the recent building of townhouses around the downtown area where residents can walk and bike to the stores or work. He is a passionate believer in creating “urban growth boundaries” which protect the idyllic, pastoral beauty on the outskirts of town.Recently, I interviewed Robinson in order to find out more about my local councilman and what led him to join the Green Party.

Q. How did you hear about the Green Party and when did you first become a member?

A. I joined the Green Party in 1990. I was on the ferry from Larkspur to SF to join a protest against the first gulf war. I was disgusted by both the Democrats and the Republicans who had voted to authorize the war and when a GP organizer asked me to change my voter registration, what else could I do?

Q. What inspired you to run for public office and what offices have you held?

A. I ran for city council in 1998 (my first and only elected office) in order to help Sebastopol move toward becoming a sustainable community

Q. As an elected official, what are the current local issues you are working on?

A. Currently I am working on establishing a CCA (Community Choice Aggregation) for Sonoma County to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, create new jobs and revitalize our local economy. I am also working to create a business incubator for Sebastopol.
Q. Can you share with us some of your accomplishments and perhaps even a disappointment or failure?

A. Some accomplishments over the past 12 years include:- establishing and maintaining the fiscal discipline that has kept Sebastopol solvent during the current economic crisis. When most cities in California are cutting services and laying off staff, we have been able to maintain services and staffing levels.

– a ban on the use of chemical pesticides on city property.

– construction of a skate park and community garden.
– Sonoma County’s first mandatory green building program.

– construction of over 75 units of affordable housing, including the country’s first co-housing rental complex for low and very low income residents.

– setting the most aggressive greenhouse reduction target of any city in Sonoma County (30% by 2012) and an action plan to meet that goal.

– construction of over 175 KW of photovoltaic arrays on municipal buildings.

– the most comprehensive second-hand smoke ordinance in CaliforniaMy biggest disappointment has been the failure of our process to develop a comprehensive specific plan to guide future development of our old industrial neighborhood. The draft plan would have been a model of ecologically responsible smart development and would have created a new, pedestrian-oriented downtown for Sebastopol, fulfilling the commitment of our 1996 urban growth boundary campaign to “grow up, not out”. Unfortunately, NIMBY (not in my backyard) opposition to any new development, however green, stopped the process in its tracks and divided our community.
Q. How do you see the future of the Green Party?
A. I must say that I see the Green Party continuing to marginalize itself by focusing on presidential and state-wide campaigns, which it cannot win, rather than on actually winning seats in local races, which it can. My hope had been that the party could build credibility over the long haul by demonstrating good governance at the local level. Then it would-be in a position to actually win and hold seats at other levels of government.
Q. Many Democrats say the Green Party hurts liberal causes because it fractures the electorate. How do you feel about this claim coming from the Democrats.

A. I don’t believe that the GP hurts liberal causes; however, it could be more effective if it concentrated efforts more locally.

Q. What advice would you give people, regardless of political party, considering to run for local office?

A. My best advice for people considering running for office is to be very clear on why they are running. Beyond that I would advise them to pay attention, show up, speak the truth and let go of the outcome.
When looking at Robinson’s responses, it is obvious just how pro-business he is. Contrary to what the radicals on the right would like you to think, progressive liberals are outspoken advocates for clean, green business. Robinson’s work in sustaining jobs and creating new ones in the community is a perfect example of the Green Party’s Key Value number 6, Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice. Below is the exact language that was developed just over twenty years ago by the founders of the Green Party of the United States.

“We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a “living wage” which reflects the real value of a person’s work.

Local communities must look to economic development that assures protection of the environment and workers’ rights; broad citizen participation in planning; and enhancement of our “quality of life.” We support independently owned and operated companies which are socially responsible, as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that distribute resources and control to more people through democratic participation.”

While the rightwing has made millions demonizing and distorting what progressive liberals believe, real patriots, like Green Party member Larry Robinson, are rolled up their sleeves and getting down to nitty-gritty work of keeping America beautiful, prosperous and a place for future generations to enjoy.

 

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