SPRING 1999 - ISSUE NUMBER 47
Green Party Launches Platform Project At Neahtawanta Inn
Members of the Green Party of Michigan gathered for their winter statewide quarterly meeting at the Neahtawanta Inn the weekend of January 29-30 to launch their effort to build a platform for the Year 2000 elections.
Under a clear, deep blue sky and amid the beautiful residual snow of January's big storm, GPMI members gathered around the warm fire in the Inn's sunken fireplace to discuss how the party could organize the platform around the Four Pillars of the international Green movement: Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice, and Peace and Nonviolence. American Greens have added six other elements -- Community Economics, Decentralization, Feminism, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus -- to form what we call our Ten Key Values.
A sense of mission permeated the proceedings. The ultra-conservative Engler Administration continues to undermine our environmental laws, and to allow sprawl to spread rampantly. The governor has packed our judiciary with right-wing ideologues, has undercut the social safety net for our weakest and most vulnerable citizens, and has turned prison building into a key state industry. The Democratic Party of Michigan, for its part, has become stale and bankrupt of ideas. It has wilted before the Republican juggernaut. Further, it has become beholden to the same corporate interests as the Republican Party. As Ralph Nader so well put it during the Green Party's inaugural national presidential campaign in 1996, instead of a two party system, we have "one corporate party" -- a "duopoly."
GPMI members contemplated how to build a progressive alternative to the two established political parties. This is not easy, given how these parties have rigged the system to keep the Green Party and other third parties off the ballot in Michigan. The two major parties have designed the state's ballot access law specifically to prevent third parties from giving them competition, by imposing an incredibly stiff statewide petitioning requirement for a new party to appear on the ballot. Further, a member of a new party cannot even run for local office until her or his party has achieved ballot access statewide.
The GPMI has taken a leadership role in decentralizing this concentrated "duopoly" of political power by the Republicans and Democrats. With the assistance of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the GPMI last summer filed a constitutional challenge to Michigan's ballot access law. The case is currently pending in Washtenaw Circuit Court. In addition, we are organizing with other new political parties a lobbying effort in the state legislature to change the ballot access law by amendment. The bill, modeled on Missouri's exemplary "Fair Ballot Access Act," will seek both to lower the statewide petition requirement, and to allow for local candidacies before a party has achieved ballot access statewide.
As there are no guarantees that the litigation and lobbying efforts will succeed, the GPMI continues steadily, through a recently adopted strategic plan, to build up our party membership and infrastructure: we aim to have the capacity to petition for ballot access in 2000 if by then we must still do so under the current restrictive system. Several members of the new Traverse City local joined us during our meeting at the Neahtawanta Inn. Lansing-area Greens are in the process of forming a new local as well. In addition to the statewide platform, we have created a website and an on-line discussion forum. Planned future projects include the creation of an on-line magazine, or "e-zine," accessible from the website. By the year 2000, the GPMI fully expects to have its roots firmly planted in a flourishing garden of multi-party democracy in Michigan.
Multi-party democracy serves as a check-and-balance against concentrated political (and by extension economic) power. However, third parties stand at a distinct disadvantage in our current winner-take-all system of elections. Greens, therefore, advocate voting systems for multi-party democracy, such as proportional representation and preference voting. The strength of the New Mexico Green Party has inspired that state's senate to pass a bill to establish preference voting for all state and federal elections. The bill is now pending in the State House of Representatives. Similarly, a preference-voting bill is also pending in the Vermont legislature.
De-concentrating political and economic power to the community level, and nurturing that community, also guide the non-electoral, "movement" activities that GPMI members undertake, often in coalition with other groups. Take the struggle to re-legalize Low Power (10-100 watt) FM broadcasting, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized until 1978. LPFM allowed for the broadcast of community programming, and allowed local and diverse voices to be heard. With the increasing concentration of media power, exacerbated by the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, programming on radio has become homogenized and removed from the community. A national grassroots movement inspired the FCC in January to propose a rule to re-legalize LPFM broadcasting. The GPMI is working with the Michigan Music is World Class Campaign to mobilize city councils, county commissions, and the state legislature to pass resolutions in support of the FCC's proposed rule.
GPMI members are organizing many other community efforts. For example, Washtenaw County Greens were very active in the coalition that tried to pass an agricultural lands and open space preservation millage last November. Ann Arbor Greens have written articles on the Y2K issue, and are planning to hold a town meeting on Y2K preparedness. GPMI members were key organizers of the struggle to convert Detroit's J.L. Hudson Building into housing, and tried to prevent the corporate-driven demolition of this landmark.
The GPMI will carry its focus on decentralization and community into its May spring quarterly state meeting in Detroit, to coincide with the opening of the National Town Meeting on Sustainable Development. Detroit is a special place for Greens nationally, as U.S. Greens helped launch, as a national project in 1991, the Detroit Summer program that, to this day, trains Detroit youth in sustainable community gardening. As a lead up to the state meeting, the GPMI recently held the first meeting of a revived Metro Detroit local. This local has great potential to be a transformative force for fundamental change and community empowerment in that metropolitan area.
Many Detroit Greens are dismayed by the way the city government under Mayor Dennis Archer has been co-opted by corporations. Structurally, there are few, if any, checks and balances against the concentration of economic and political power in the city. The non-partisan City Council is elected at large, so most council members there are fundamentally accountable only to the corporate donors and other wealthy interests -- particularly, now, casino interests - who foot their expensive city-wide campaign bills. Greens are promoting a neighborhood-based system of direct district representation for the Detroit City Council, so council members will be more accountable to the grass roots people in the neighborhoods.
Another issue: many of Detroit's problems result from years of disinvestment from urban sprawl - turning Detroit and even its older suburbs into the hole in a great donut. Only a system of state-level land use planning featuring an urban growth boundary around metro Detroit (and other Michigan metropolitan areas) will stop this trend and begin to redirect resources back into the city. Neither of the two major parties has the courage to call for these significant structural changes. The GPMI platform will include plans for these measures, and the party will organize around them.
The Green Party of Michigan faces the new millennium with hope and enthusiasm. We welcome everyone who adheres to the Ten Key Values to join us in working towards a just, prosperous, and ecologically sustainable society in Michigan.
join our email discussion forum: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Party of Michigan
548 S. Main St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Return to the Index of Synapse 47, Spring 1999
[ Index of Past Issue ] [ Neahtawanta Center ]