Greens to run in city council election
Excerpted from The Greyhound: The Student Newspaper of Loyola College
by Christina Santucci
For the first time in history, eight members of the Baltimore Green Party (BGP) will run in November’s city council election, with seven of the candidates vying for city council seats and one running for the city council presidency.
Though the council has been composed entirely of Democrats since 1942, the Green candidates remain optimistic but not overly confident. Baltimore has historically leaned towards Democrats, as they outnumber other parties 7-3 in the city, according to the results from the 2002 governor’s election.
“I just hope some of us will break through the solid mass of the machine,” said Myles Hoenig, 48, a Baltimore City public school teacher who is running for the 14th district seat.
The decision for all eight to run came at the BGP’s first convention on March 13, held at the auditorium at the Govan’s Branch Library and featuring San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez won 47 percent of December’s mayoral runoff but lost in the end after absentee votes were counted.
With about 75 of the city’s 1,200 members in attendance, the convention allowed each Green candidate to speak on their platforms, which ranged from decentralization to community policing to higher minimum wage to better school funding to taking the profit out of drugs.
“It’s less important how we do things; its more important to make sure politicians get things done,” said Gonzalez to the crowd.
In an effort to challenge the Democratic stronghold on city government, the Green candidates presented themselves as messengers of the people who would forcefully alert governing bodies of unhappiness among constituents.
“The only way to make [Democrats] change their position is for the Greens to get stronger and run more,” said 38-year-old Baltimore resident Mike Shea, co-chair of the convention.
Gonzalez, among others, also spoke directly about the animosity directed at Green Party members from Democrats who felt that Ralph Nader caused President George W. Bush to win the 2000 election.
Green party members refused the blame for Gore’s loss in the election and shifted the fault to the former vice president himself. “Gore was lackadaisical after that theft [of the 2000 election],” said Gail Dixon, of the D.C. Statehood Green Party and a former elected member of the Washington Board of Education, who spoke at the convention.
“The Republicans and Democrats have carved up their territory, and they feel threatened by anything that would change that,” said Shea. Calling for electoral reform, Shea extolled the values of majority elections and instant runoff races, two common Green party ideals.
An instant runoff election would eliminate any chance for a spoiler to negatively affect the election, Shea said, adding that Ross Perot had played a role similar to Nader’s in the 1996 election, costing President George Bush a second term.
“Many Greens would be happy voting for a good Democratic candidate,” said Hoenig. At both the presidential and city council levels, however, he could pick out no such person, he said.
In addition, Hoenig compared the current Democratic-filled city council to an elitist machine that is “controlled by special interests from within.”
Hoenig had made the decision to run as a Green party candidate rather than a Democrat because of his views more closely aligned with the BGP. He had entertained the idea of running as a Democrat a few years earlier, when the city council passed a bill allowing Loyola College to acquire and construct a lacrosse stadium in the Baltimore neighborhood of Woodberry, an act which Hoenig adamantly opposed.
Hoenig considered moving out of state after the bill was passed but decided against it. Manual pdf
“Now I’m going to stay and fight …. Just my presence would be a chink in the armor of that machine,” said Hoenig, comparing the Democratic stronghold on the city council to an unthinking mechanical device.
At the national level, Greens are also discouraged with the Democratic track record. “The stunning lack of spine the Democrats have displayed over the past four years has soured me on the ‘Anyone but Bush’ line,” said Brian Pepper, a 17-year-old senior from Middletown High in Frederick, Md., who attended the convention.
Hoenig said that he believes many voters share in Green party ideals, with the possible exception of pacifism, an issue which itself draws conflicting views from within the party.
“With any social movement, you’re going to get a spectrum of views,” said Daniel J. Waldman, the Communications and Public Relations director for the BGP.
Green party members must also deal with stereotypes from outside the party.
“Do not fall into the trap of the Greens being more to the left than the Democrats,” Gonzalez said during his speech.
“What is considered progressive just isn’t happening in the Democratic party,” said Andrew Agostinelli, 41, Washington D.C. native and co-chair for the convention. Agostinelli was hesitant to use the terms left and right, but he said that the dedication to positive reforms was what set the Green party apart. Manual pdf
“The green party stands for values that most people in the country want like universal health care and decreased military spending,” said Shea.
Greens forecast the biggest adversity to their victory in the eight races will be advertising, campaigning and funding.
As BGP candidates do not accept corporate donations on principle, the party hopes to acquire a large amount of individual support on a smaller level.
“Another big draw is that it doesn’t take donations from corporate sponsors,” said Leo Horrigan, 43, co-chair of the convention.
Gonzalez advised candidates to go door to door, call constituents personally and try to get Democrat voters to go Green, thereby getting two votes instead of one.
“We are a grassroots organization. That means your feet are on the streets,” said Agonstinelli. He explained that participants will attend public events, plaster the city with flyers and go door to door to campaign.
Though members touted the party as the fastest and only growing party in the city, the Greens still struggle with membership numbers and making their voice known. Manual pdf
“[Baltimore citizens] don’t know who the Green party is. We haven’t been selling ourselves,” said Shea, who also filmed the speakers in hopes of promoting the event afterward through the media.
“We’re not on the front pages of the newspapers,” said Horrigan, who came with his wife Maggie, 42, and 7-year-old son Eamon.
Still, organizers were happy with the turnout at the convention.
“Most active members are here, plus people who were just interested, maybe in one of the talks,” said Agostinelli.
The limited amount of emails and posters advertising the convention did bring in Pepper and Kate Beutler, another 17-year-old Middletown senior. Both teens were able to participate in the March 6 nomination election and city council election because they will be 18 by the Nov. 2 city council election.
“Brian got me into the Green party specifically and told me about the Baltimore,” said Beutler. “But my parents raised me in a politically aware home, so I knew about the Green Party and Nader.”
Pepper, himself, has already making waves in the political arena as a member of the Political Discussion Club at Middletown and an election judge for the Mar. 2 Maryland primary election. In addition, he helped organize a voter registration drive at his high school that registered 123 senior students.
Annie Outwater, a 49-year-old Baltimore resident and another convention attendee, said she thought the event was “energized and ready.” Outwater came into the Green party about a year and a half ago when she moved to Baltimore from Tanzania.
“You just get so fed up with the candidates of the main parties not tending to issues,” she said, adding that the Greens fight for issues like healthcare and environmental issues that she believes in strongly.
March 16, 2004