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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Closet Greens & the Green Fringe

I am ever amazed at how much effort active Greens make to render the party unpalatable to all but the already marginalized; the bizarre infighting, the pet conspiracy theories, the not-so-subtle socialist infiltration that has no business in a party deemed "not left, not right, just Green."


Meanwhile, more than a few Greens are making progress in light of the popularity of the small-g green movement. But it is almost easier to make green progress without the tainted Green Party brand.

Although I have previously described how one goes about gaining political creditability (often in non-partisan settings), I fear that a creditable Green Party presence will not emerge on the scene until sufficient mainstream-thinking but correctly Green folks begin to emerge locally.

I am hopeful that as less anti-social Greens work quietly to earn individual community support and run for office -- based on their ideas and records, not a tainted party label -- that the party label can gain the respectability the 10 KV deserve.

If you are a closet Green -- one for whom the 10 KV resonate, even as party machinations and efforts to drag the party to the left have you thinking about the dreaded Decline to State -- I'd love to hear from you. There must be a way to swing this party into the mainstream. I think the quiet Greens might just be the ones to do it.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

G3 Green: Can the Green Party Evolve, But Keep its Idealism and Values?

Watching Green Party politics for the last few years, I think the Party's history can be condensed into three major epochs, or generations if you will; and a lot depends on how Generation 3 plays out.

The first American Green Party members were pioneers. They were outsiders frustrated by an electoral system hell bent on destroying the country, and the world. United at first in their forward looking, biology-centered thinking, the first generation came to differing ideas on what a Green Party should become. Accordingly there now exist both "electoral" and "lifestyle" organizations with confusingly similar names.

Generation Two, at least in the "electoral" wing, tends to be made up of political outsiders. That is, folks who never quite fit in with the rest of the mundane world, folks who were early adopters of sustainable technology and relaxed and revised social norms. Folks who were hot for concepts like environmental wisdom and social justice.

As non-Rotarians and folks unlikely to find themselves recruited as Masons, G2 Greens naturally turned to the time-honored tools of protest and complaint. Coupled with public education, protest and complaint can be an effective tool to get a problem, and sometimes a solution, noticed. If a large groundswell of complaint ensues it can, sometimes, swing society (and with it our government) more to the a particular point in the political spectrum.

Protest and complaint are tricky, though. Sometimes they go unnoticed, or are dismissed as the further rantings of a bunch of cranks; sometimes they are noticed and there is widespread pushback. And very occasionally they are noticed and a problem is addressed and a solution found.

In addition, it is easy to become addicted to complaint and protest. The more one dwells in anger, the easier and more reflexive anger and complaint becomes. The more one is accustomed to having one's ideas ignored or belittled, the fewer ideas one tends to put forward; the fewer actual ideas one proposes, and the less people listen to the angry rant.

It is a self-perpetuating circle of defeat, and some G2 Greens seem to have fallen into this "Angry Impotence" mode. I have even seen folks actively resist evolving into G3 Greens, dismissing actual mainstream political participation as ineffective.

Nevertheless, and make no mistake, Generation 3 Greens are here: Some having grown up politically as G1 or G2 Greens have evolved; others see the party as ready for the next step, and came on board as G3 Greens.

G3 Greens are attracted to the Green Party for many of the reasons the G1 and G2 Greens were. But G3 Greens are here not only because they believe wholeheartedly in the 10 Key Values, but also because Greens have begun to govern and there is hope for the greater culture.

There are elected Greens and appointed Greens and green (small g) policies and programs popping up all over.

This is the beginning of the Third Age of the Greens.

And brothers and sisters, the times they are a changin'.

One of the difficulties I see pretty regularly is that many G1 and G2 oriented Greens are simply not comfortable with real electoral politics. Most have never had the occasion to govern a group of citizens -- as opposed to working with or leading like-minded activists or factions within a single group.

For example, one who governs cannot realistically define oneself as who one is against, but rather what one stands for, what policies will be legislated and implemented, and how opposing viewpoint holders will be accommodated or educated.

Another difficulty is the filtering in of folks from other, shop-worn political viewpoints -- both right and left -- who seem to have climbed on to the Great Green Bandwagon because it was sexy, but want to turn the Party into an echo of what they left behind. Folks from the way-far-left who see the 10 KV as the next best thing to Socialism misunderstand the social element of the 10 KV; libertarian refuges likewise mistake grassroots democracy and local control for "no control"and find themselves mis-advocating for a sort of loose eco-anarchy.

It is my hope for the new year that Greens can focus on evolving into G3 Greens; politically active, politically savvy, actual leaders of policy change at the local level, and on the road to electoral substance. People in general are ready for the 10KV, so long as they come in a resonable, respectable package.

Blogging live from the route of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, a very Happy New Year to you all!

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Suggestions For Sonoma: Three Key Areas

Near the end of the month the GPCA is convening a little confab to look at going-forward strategies for the GPCA. Since I can't be in Sonoma then, I offer my suggestions here:

As I noted on a comment on CA Greening recently, the Green "brand" often has negative connotations for voters, whereas the Green 10 Key Values are often embraced when presented without the Green label. Clearly there is a disconnect between the Green image and Green aspirations. For any electoral strategy to work, Greens need a brand-building strategy -- both for Greens and potential non-Green voters for our candidates.

I think there are three major contributing factors to folks having the wrong idea about Greens.

Watch Your Language! Toward A Green Lexicon

First, our choice of language to communicate with the public and each other needs to be cleaned up. We often describe something acceptable or even desirable to mainstream America in such strident cant that it is perceived as fringe and crackpot.

For example, many folks who have chosen a Green Party path have come in from the left, perceiving that some Green core values at least mirror their own values. With those folks has come the language of the left: Terms like "solidarity" "struggle" "class warfare," etc. pepper their left-leaning dialogue -- and, not incidentally, public-oriented Green Party communications.
This gives the false impression that to be Green is to be on the left. Maybe even on the far left.

There is, to be sure, some confusion about this even among putative Greens. (See my "Left, Right and Green" for a longer screed on this topic. )

Fundamentally, while many of the ideas of the 10KV have been espoused by the left in some forms, the Green Party form is new; there are also values that have been espoused by the right in other forms. One needs to be mindful of the saying attributed to Petra Kelly, "Not left, not right, but forward Green."

One would not want to issue a Green press release "in solidarity with the worker's struggle for liberation in the battle against capitalist corporate criminals," and yet I have seen language nearly this trite and nearly this stereotypically "red" in Green writings. Neither would one want to steal from the radical right and rail against "activist federal judges who impose immoral practices and condone immoral laws" in order to promote "Grassroots Democracy" and the right of a state to have stricter environmental standards, for example.

In each case there is a Green way to phrase the same point, without either resorting to the failed lexicon of the right or the left.

A Little Green Education

The unvarnished 10 KV are appealing to a broad spectrum of people. When presented in the frame of reference of the average American, and stripped of the language of the extreme left or right, many people find the 10 KV common-sensical and non-threatening.

Sometimes though a little education is required. "Ecological Wisdom" can sound all "weird and treehuggerish" or can it be a simple common sense injunction to conduct our activities so we don't poison our planet. There are many ways to engage in ecological wisdom without emphasizing gloom, doom and sacrifice. (For an example, see my "Get Off Your Would-But" at my other blog-space.)

By highlighting the 10 KV (in neutral language) and providing a modicum of person-to-person education, and then explaining that these are Green Party, not just greenie values, the Green Party brand might acquire a better, more true, more electable image.

All Politics Is Local; Most Politicos Were Local Yokels Once

I've said it over and over. So I'll make it brief: Greens should concentrate on gaining local non-partisan elected and appointed office, both to gain experience in actual governance -- something we lack -- and to build a base of local voters who know Green leaders as good leaders they can vote for in partisan elections. Local partisan elections won by known local leaders can translate into state-level partisan elections, etc.

Again see my prior screed "Musings on City Planning Leads to A Local Government Primer for Local Greens."

There it is, in a nutshell:

1. Speak to America in plan American-speak -- not political-cant nor activist rant.
2. Politely educate on the 10KV
3. Go Local

These common sense approaches could go a long way to getting past the distorted image that the Green Party has accumulated over the years, and let the actual, common sense Green approach recomend itself.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How to Get Appointed: Primer, Part II

In a prior post it was suggested that Greens need to become active in their communities -- or rather, active within the governments in their communities, in other than elected positions. This, I suggested, would influence policy at the most useful level, train Green community members in the nuances of actual governance, and introduce Greens to their neighbors as effective leaders in non-electoral (but governmental) settings.

This long winded post is a consideration of some of the ways to participate in public meetings, including some basic thoughts on how to get oneself appointed to various committees and commissions.

How does one penetrate the political fog that surrounds those positions and get oneself appointed? Read on!

Be Active!

Be out in the community, attending public meetings, providing community input, helping craft solutions.

Most cities these days have myriad meetings for residents and other stakeholders before making major policy decisions, or in the process of creating Environmental Impact Reports for major projects by both government and private contractors.

Go to the meetings. Speak up. Sign in.

When the next round of meetings comes up on a certain project, or a certain type of project, you may get an email or snail mail directly inviting you to attend. Congratulations! You are now a recognized community activist or stakeholder.

What good is going to these (very often boring) meetings? There is a threefold benefit:

1. Your voice is heard: A rational voice in favor of sustainable options is important, a thoughful voice against options that are not supportable from a social or environmental perspective. Both need to be part of the record.

2. You are educated: At these meetings you learn a lot about how to craft a technically and legally adequate alternative option that is also an appropriate policy or construction approach, or legally effective way to hold private developers to greener standards. You also learn who the local powers are really, and what it takes to sway them.

3. You are seen, and remembered: Your rational, thoughtful, articulate expression and help with problem solving to achieve a more sustainable and just community will be noted by city professional staff, and, if you are at City Council meetings too, by the elected officials. Remember it is elected officials who appoint folks, sometimes with suggestions from constituents and even City or developer staff.

Politics, as usual.

Some of the appointment game comes down to old fashioned "money and connections" politics. In a very large city (like Los Angeles) with some very powerful commissions, getting appointed can be a little harder, and can be based on access as a result of pure political clout.

Most of us do not have the cash to be players at this level, and in any case it is probably distasteful to most Greens to buy access. But Greens are great at volunteering during elections, at hosting coffees and the like. And in non-partisan local elections, especially, there is a great deal of party-line crossing based on issues. It may mean that one has to choose between supporting an openly Green candidate versus a green-friendly candidate who is a front runner; that choice is left to your own conscience. But in a race with no avowed Green, many non-partisan candidates are interested in your issues strongly.

Your efforts on behalf of a candidate create a chance to become known to the candidate and the candidate's advisors. It also helps you understand the candidate's issues, and be in a stronger position to represent -- or modify -- the ideals of a new council member later.

Yes, I said modify. Many Councilmembers are open to your opinion as a commissioner, and will discuss things at length to help them come to the best conclusion for your community.

Community Events: Picnics and Pancake Breakfasts

Again, to be a known quantity to the folks doing the appointing, it can be helpful to be involved in community events. Most cities have Earth Day events in parks, with local politicos in attendance, enjoying the day and chatting up constituents. Earth Day is especially appealing to Greens, for obvious reasons.

But there are many many other non-political events, too, and it can be important to be in attendance there also. Picnics, evening concerts, fairs, openings, dedications and pancake breakfasts all abound. If you chat with city staffers and make low key, effective -- and not incidentally sustainable -- suggestions, or even chat with electeds in an informal setting, you are establishing your reputation for thoughtful, helpful discourse.

These events can also be an opportunity to connect with electeds as people, not as elected representatives. Again, this is especially true in more modest cities, where "elected official" is often not a full time job.

Such interactions can also, frankly, be helpful to you in evaluating candidates on a level you may have only imagined. One year, a would-be Council Member arrived at our neighborhood association picnic on a bike with his two children in a bike trailer. Although his opponent was a progressive union official and former President of the Neighborhood Association, that chance meeting and conversation with the bike-riding candidate cemented my belief in this otherwise conservative-looking fellow as an excellent council member.

Have To Buy A Ticket To Win

Rarely will anyone spontaneously ask you to serve on a commission. If they do, you should be writing this advice not reading it. In general, you have to apply. (Timing can be key, however. See below.) Different commissions have different technical requirements to be appointed, which should be observed. (But note: evaluate your own qualifications carefully; a decade of activism in an area may make you eminently qualified, even if you think you lack paper credentials like degrees in a specialty area!).

The application forms are often available online, along with lists of commissions. Some commissions require financial disclosure forms, some do not. Although an official application is almost always required, rarely will a bare application dropped into the city hopper result in an appointment.

Get Appointed, Then Apply !?!

There is a lot of groundwork to be done before making an application. Indeed, although I am about to be appointed, tonight, to my third city commission in 10 years (and have served on or chaired a dozen city working groups, committees or steering committees), I have never applied to a commission position until it was determined that someone would like to appoint me!

Of course there should be an opening on the commission to which you wish to be appointed, or an opening which may come open in the near future. The trick is that commission appointments may involve a certain degree of personal relationship between the commissioner and the appointing official -- it is never helpful to complain about a commissioner and ask to replace him, for example. It is also helpful to suss out which commission appointments might be coming open but for which there is already someone in mind.

The best way to start the process, to my mind, is to simply bring it up in casual conversation with the elected or the elected's field representative. Bring up your interest in being active in the community. Mention how well something you have participated in worked out, or how you look forward to working on a solution to an existing problem. Mention that if there were any commission appointments coming available, you would be interested in serving in that way too, maybe even on the (blank) commission, where you have the most experience.

Don't look for an answer at that point, although you may get one. Something temporizing, or something letting you down slowly is far more likely. That is to be expected -- and should be met with equanimity on your part, with a low key "well, keep me in mind won't you?" For you have now done the hard work: Broached the subject of your interest.

You may have also gotten valuable information. "Well, you know Helen on the Parks Commission was just appointed last year, and has three years on her term to go," or something similar. That tells you who to work with on these issues, but also identifies the possible timetable for expressing interest again.

Track the Commission

Track the doings of the commission you are interested in serving on. Be familiar with the players and the issues; show up once or twice on issues of interest to you. Don't dog the commission. But you would be expected to be conversant with the issues if appointed, and reading minutes and reports is an excellent way to do that ahead of time.

In addition, sometimes commissioner's "retire" or move on -- and will recommend a replacement to the appointing official. I have done this; I have seen other commissioners do so. If a current commissioner recommends you, it can save the appointing person the trouble of finding a qualified person with a similar political agenda.

Be Reasonable

Throughout this Appointment Primer I have deliberately mentioned your thoughtful, helpful input on issues, your willingness to help craft solutions to problems, your efforts to create community consensus even if your ideal solution is not going to be adopted. I did this deliberately, because this is what governing -- and commission service -- entails.

Greens, as a rule, are people who are outsiders to much of "regular" society. If you are a registered Green you have taken a social step that many who share your beliefs are unable to bring themselves to do. If you have come to the place where a just, sustainable world is a key motivator for how you live your life, you are ahead of most people. If you have given up on the Dempublican / Republicrat system, the odds are fair that you are also not part of other standard institutions.

In part because of this outsider status, in part because we see the urgency of a Green approach to our community life, Greens are often passionate to the point of belligerence about their key issues. In part because most Greens have not been a part of the government before, they are also not conversant with techniques to communicate a political message and have a useful impact on political decision makers.

Most Greens are familiar with the tactics of pressure, and protest. Of mass movements and media attracting stunts. These are outsider techniques. They work, but only somewhat. It is better to be the insider, pushing for new ideas.

Most Greens are familiar with the tactic of complaint, and the level of frustration that can arise when leaders do the wrong thing anyway. Mere complaint, however, without presentation of effective alternatives, is another outsider technique. As a future commissisoner, one is asking to be part of the government, not part of a mass movement opposed to it; while participating in meetings and other opportunities, one is practicing governance of all members of the community, of consensus building, if you will, including governance of those most strongly opposed to one's own positions. This calls for a different approach than protest and complaint.

(Even if one is not angling for a commission appointment, it turns out that the thoughtful, reasoned approach to issues often is more effective than starting with impassioned speeches, name calling, sign carrying, overflow crowds of chanting supporters or the like. )

Participation in local governance puts Green ideas into the system, making the job of activist Greens easier; educates local Greens on actual governance, something most of us lack; and exposes Green leaders as community leaders, who may well be considered favorably in future partisan elections. Grassroots democracy starts with grassroots governance. It starts with you.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Masculinism, Feminism & Gender Equity: Time to Update the 10 KV?

I live for diaper changing tables in the Men's Restroom.

They are a sign to me that the feminist movement of the 1960s and early 1970s succeeded beyond all expectations in a few decades.

And indeed, my wife, a Green, was complaining the other night about the somewhat outdated inclusion of the word "Feminism" as one of the 10 Key Values on the GPCA site. It's not the issue of gender equity that she finds odd, but the old-timey term which tends to rankle.

And indeed, the GPUS formulation has the dual title "Feminism and Gender Equity." One could simply lope off "feminism" and have an inclusive ideal that was non-sexist (and therefore, in fact, feminist to a significant degree).

Now I admit that I am old enough to remember when "Women's Lib" was new; feminists were the holy-warriors for gender equity, and worked to unsettle and unseat the "male chauvinist" norm.

A little later, when I was in college, even though I am male, I considered myself a relatively evolved feminist, going out of my way to work to undo old gender stereotypes. Later still, as a lawyer, I often worked for female partners, often prosecuting gender bias cases. But I think it was, in fact, when I started working for female law partners on behalf of female executives that I realized that the word "feminist" had really outlived its need.

Gender equity still needed some help, but "feminism" had seen its day.

As proof of this, I note that, last year our local Arroyo Seco Greens had at least two very active stay-at-home dads, of which I was one.

In fact, as part of my continued contribution to feminism -- er, gender equity -- I spent many hours pestering establishments with no diaper changing table in the Men's Restroom.

The Starbuck's in LaVerne at D Street and Foothill Blvd. now has a diaper changing station in the men's room. Only in the men's room. I am amused to say that this is my fault. I did it. In an act of unselfconscious gender equity, I think I shamed them into it. [Click the Photo below for a readable view.]

In making this happen, I did not see it as an act of feminism -- although it could be tagged as such, I suppose. It was, perhaps, a case of non-macho "masculinism:" I am a man. But I am a parent first, and value the bonding time last year with my newborn daughter. I also think it is important to resist the sexist message that "ladies room only" diaper changing tables present.

So there we were in Starbucks every day for most of a year. With no diaper changing table.
If you are interested in the whole saga of the changing table in the Men's Restroom (only), it an be found here (Part I) and here (Part II) and here (Part III).
My favorite part of the story was when the regional manager offered to install a changing table for me -- in the Ladies Restroom!
See what I mean about gender equity? Feminism was nice, but really, we are sort of beyond that now, aren't we?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Musing About City Planning Leads to A Local Government Primer for Local Greens

Working to create sustainable, human scale, transportation modes depends on local folks -- and especially local Greens -- stepping up to be involved in the planning process. Here's how!

Roads for People

Streets, and especially sidewalks, are mostly planned, installed and maintained by local governments. City governements, or sometimes county government has the largest effect on whether people feel that they *must* ride a car somewhere or not.

There are usually appointed city and county Transportation Commissions, made up of ordinary local folk charged with giving advice to government staffs and elected officials on how to deal with mobility.

It makes a lot of difference if the people on these commissions understand, as most Greens do, that building more and bigger roads just leads to more and faster car riding.

Cities for People

Any city built up since about 1950 was built for the comfort of cars. Any city built before World War II was probably built for people, at a human scale, with identifiable neighborhoods. Greens know that we call the suburbia of last 50 years sprawl, and that it gets the blame for many of the ills we as a culture experience today.

Greens know that when it comes to increased urban densities it is not the number of people in a concentrated area that is a problem (within broad reasonable limits) but the amount and nature of the of travel required for work and life's necessities. Or, to oversimplify: Its not the number of people that live in a neighborhood, its the number of cars.

Planning Commissions, often without the aid of a Transportation Commission, make recommendations and even legally binding decisions on what gets built and how it looks. Often excoriated for "nimbyism," or as short-sighted, focusing on sales tax revenue from a downtown destroying big-box, there is nothing inherently evil about the typical planning commission.

Commissions and Committees -- For People

There are other commission areas with important roles, where Greens have good knowledge about a better way to do things:

  • Parks and Recreation Commissions often have broad responsibility for green space, not just baseball diamonds and picnic tables.

  • Library Commissions may set policies that benefit all users, and bring actually effective programing serving sometimes unserved segments of the communities.

  • Design Commissions can protect the look and feel of a community -- again, not just in the stereotyped "nimby" suburbanite manner, but in a form that allows and even encourages public art, but bans billboard advertising.

  • Utility Commissions, where there is a municipal utility, can influence policy with respect to renewables such as wind and distributed solar.

  • Environmental Commissions, where they exist (such as in Pasadena) can help put biological thinking into play across a city's operations.

Commissions often have official standing, and a commission review may be required for many projects or proposals. But there are often many single-purpose committees -- sometimes called steering committees or stakeholder committees -- that get set up to do chores like a coordinated review of transportation policy, or parking codes.

These are usually made up of stakeholders from various constituencies, including yours. One great way to get invited onto these committees is to participate at City Council meetings and commission meetings as a member of the public, or on behalf of a neighborhood group or an issue group.

If you are able to communicate your viewpoint clearly and coherently, and do not seem dangerously unbalanced, or otherwise unable to work with other community members to arrive at consensus, you will often be invited to participate in these quasi-official steering committees.

And they do have real input and ability to affect what is on the ground.

Finally, its a cliche, but elected and appointed folk really do listen to the people who speak at public meetings. Great bouts of spirited oration are not needed; indeed, you may find you are unreasonably limited to 3-5 minutes. But if you (1) participate at all and (2) pare your comments down to the succinct essentials, I guarantee you will heard, and may well be headed. I have watched a comment from a member of the public take hold with an elected official and change the course of the debate and the outcome.

Over -heated rhetoric, personal attacks, satire, sarcasm -- these rarely affect the decision makers, and often undercut good points you may be making. And they will not improve your odds of getting invited to participate in the Non-Auto Mobility Improvement Steering Committee when that issue comes up later.

Act Locally. No Really.

All it really takes is enough thoughtful, right-thinking people to serve in these many many many capacities to begin the move toward more sustainable, just and equitable, local government policies. This is how the grassroots in grassroots democracy works.

Why would one want to serve on the local library commission instead of angrily protesting an injustice perpetrated by some far-flung empire?

Well, first, it may not be an "instead" issue; do both.

But second, which has more direct, immediate and life altering impact: Starting a program to underwrite a Reading Intensive Summer Camp for struggling readers in your neighborhood or funding a minority language outreach for your own community, or carrying a sign protesting global warming?

While the national and international issues are important, the next generation of policies are being made, right now, on the local boards and commissions of your city and county.


Coming Soon: Thoughts on How to Get Appointed / Invited to Participate

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Less Voting, More Democracy: Grassroots Consensus Seeking and the Green Party

Grassroots Democracy means more people formally voting for stuff more often -- or so I have been told by a number of Greens pushing for more "democracy" in Green Party functions.

Any hint of representational democracy -- where a selected representative reports to and votes the desires of a larger group -- is rejected as somehow anti-democratic.

Interestingly, this idea of more voters and more voting is, to my way of thinking, actually antithetical to the consensus building paradigm. More important, it does not in any way assure anything like Grassroots Democracy, while directly increasing the complexity and cost of taking a group decision.

If we look at two different formulations of this particular key value we can see that Green Grassroots Democracy can be achieved by methods other than more voting -- indeed, might best be achieved by governmental (or party) consesnus building, even over complex mathematical formula to achieve something like proportional representation after yet another vote.

GPUS Grassroots Democracy

The following version comes from the
Green Party US website (emphasis added):
"GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them. We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process."

The California "question" version of the 10 KV from the Green Party of California website expresses essentially the same sentiment:

Grassroots Democracy: How can we develop systems that allow and encourage us to control the decisions that affect our lives? How can we ensure that representatives will be fully accountable to the people who elected them? How can we develop planning mechanisms that would allow citizens to develop and implement their own preferences for policies and spending priorities? How can we encourage and assist the "mediating institutions"--family, neighborhood organization, church group, voluntary association, ethnic club--to recover some of the functions now performed by the government? How can we relearn the best insights from American traditions of civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility?

More Voting Does NOT Mean More Democracy

Neither version of this Key Value says anything about more direct voting. Indeed, both versions are silent as to process, seeking only the same outcome: The empowerment of individuals to have -- and feel that they have -- a direct effect on the decisions that affect their lives.

That is, Grassroots Democracy is focused on facilitating meaningful input by the average person, not just input by elected officials or other leaders. But there is nothing in the concept about more direct voting.

Simple public meetings and other informal input can go a long way to achieving this goal.

Early public input, at the start of a decision making process -- at the "brainstorming" level -- are important. Additional, later meetings at the start of decision making processes as the viable options are identified, and again as options are weighed and winnowed down, go a long way to providing this input for example.

Transparency of decision making details, and leaders committed to truly listening and making decisions based on what is heard finish the process. An effective, widespread outreach and stakeholder input process may not result in decisions that everyone likes 100%, but it can approximate a consensus process with a group the size of a small city.

Or even a county-wide group of registered Greens.

More than a few municipal governments, and particularly one of the governments I am most familiar with, the City of Pasadena, has gone a long way to implement this version of Grassroots Democracy. It is very effective, and even when people here disagree with decisions, most feel listened to and acknowledged.

It is not uncommon, even, for the opinion of dissenters to be noted by the majority, and an effort to accommodate such concerns made both before and after a decision is taken.

It is both puzzling to me and perhaps understandable that this mediation-based Municipal model has not seen more use by Green Party groups. It is understandable, perhaps, given the generalized lack of experience in actual governance of most Greens. Puzzling because it fits the description of Grassroots Democracy quite well -- and is
subject to varying degrees of depth of outreach depending on the size of the group and the importance of the decision.

Rather than attempt to create more opportunities for direct voting -- such as additional plenaries, or congresses or regional meetings-- the GP should work to (1) train GP activists in the mediative, consensus seeking model and (2) implement small scale, truly representational democracy. We Greens should take a lesson from current models of progressive government that are working now, making them even more flexible for use in GP settings.

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