Billy Talen attracting attention in his bid for Mayor
by Gloria Mattera, Green Party of New York State
On March 1, activist and performance artist Bill Talen, also known as the Reverend Billy, announced his bid for Mayor of New York City. The Green Party in New York City recruited Talen to be the ìtop of the ticketî candidate in the upcoming November elections.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his influence and his personal fortune to strong-arm the City Council into overturning term limits in a contentious 29-22 vote last October. This angered New York≠ers, the majority of whom voted twice (1993 voter initiative and 1996 referendum) to limit their local officials to two terms in office. Accord≠ing to Talen, ìThe bubble economies that Mike Bloomberg leads, like Wall Street and real estate speculation, should no longer be allowed to invade the neighborhoods. If elected Mayor, I would put resources into supporting small community banks and credit unions. They care about making loans to people and businesses work.î
Talen, or Rev. Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping, has a long history as a New York City street activist who uses the persona of an evangelical preacher to spread the word of anti-corporatism and anti-consumerism. For more than a decade, Talen has risked arrest to defend public space, workersí rights and the First Amend≠ment. With his partner, Savitri D. and the sweet sounds of a choir that reflects the diversity of the city he loves, Talen celebrates the small shop keeper, street vendor and the local ìgift economyî of the neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.
Rev. Billy, of the Church of Life After Shopping, has a long history as a New York City street activist who uses the persona of an evangelical preacher to spread the word of anti-corporatism and anti-consumerism.
It is in defense of these neighborhoods, overdeveloped by the real estate moguls, deprived of essential services and unfairly taxed, that motivated Talen to take his activism to the electoral arena on the Green Party ticket.
Since kicking off his campaign in March, Talen has garnered media attention from everything from the local neighborhood weeklies to the Wall Street Journal.
In between appearing at candidate forums and street fairs Talen has created his own style of unconventional campaigning. On World Water Day, Talen celebrated the tap water of NYC by gathering his choir and supporters to each hold signs from their ë500 fabulous neighborhoodsî on a windy Christopher Street pier. Al≠though the event was billed as a ìBlessing of the Waterî picnic, the political message was clear: Halliburton-style gas drilling (fracturing) in the Marcellus Shale was contaminating the water and poisoning the land. Differentiating himself from local politicians who make a show of protecting the NYC Watershed from the dangerous drilling, Talen demanded a complete ban on fracturing throughout the state.
With anger against City officeholders who voted to extend their own term limits along with working peopleís concern about the ability to make ends meet, the opportunity is ripe for Green Party candidates to highlight a new agenda for the city. Join≠ing Talen are four Green Party candidates for city council.
Lynne Serpe, a Green Party member since 1994, is running for office in District 22óAstoria, Queens. Lynneís activism in Astoria ranges from organizing events that promote local green resources through her organization, Triple R Events (co-founded with former city council candidate Robyn Sklar) to protecting her local community garden from being taken over by the city. Working for a local environmental group, Serpe said, ìI understand first-hand that a new green economy focused on energy-efficiency will lower utility bills and reduce energy consumption (and our reliance on foreign oil), maintain affordable housing, im≠prove public health and create good, green jobs that can never be ship≠ped overseas.î (www. serpeforcouncil.com)
David Pechef≠sky is running in District 39, Brooklyn, a council seat that has a history of fielding strong Green Party candidates. David came to the Green Party after leaving his job with the NYC Council and the Democratic Party. Working as City Council Central Staff for 10 years, David realized that, for the most part, the Council has squandered its potential to make the changes needed to truly im≠prove life in the city for all New Yorkers. He knows how city government can work, and has the bold vision and experience to make it hap≠pen. (www. pechefskyfor≠citycouncil.com)
Evergreen Chou is running in District 20, Flushing Queens. Evergreen and his wife Day Starr have been living and organizing in Flushing since 1992, where he has been a Green Party candidate for city council, state assembly and U.S. Congress. As a health care worker, Chou knows first-hand about the devastating effects of the city governmentís most recent health care cuts. He is a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans, and a Scoutmaster.
Walter Nestler, District 18, Bronx, is a landscape architect, a third-generation Bronx resident and member of the Com≠munity Board. At his Feb≠ruary 28th campaign announcement during the Bronxís Park Speak Up Day, Nestler said, ìItís time to start improving and strengthening our community by rejecting the business-as-usualí approach of our current elected officials. We canít allow the East Bronx to continue to be the cityís dumping ground.î (www.walternestlerfor≠citycouncil.org)
The Green Party of NYS does not have ballot status so all of its candidates must petition as independent candidates. With the New York State Election Lawís two-tiered system for ballot and non-ballot status parties, this presents a challenge. Green Party candidates will have to wait until the ballot status parties finish their petitioning drive (JuneñJuly) before they can gather signatures of thousands of registered voters during July and August.
All the New York City Green Party candidates are participating in the NYC Campaign Finance Matching Funds program. Donations of $10ñ$175 from NYC residents will be matched 6:1ówhich means $50 is matched with $300, or $150 with $900. Donations are permitted (but not matched) from outside NYC. Each office has different thresholds with the Council candidates needing to raise $5,000 from NYC residents. For Talen, the threshold is much higheró$250,000.00óbut if achieved will give his mayoral campaign over one million dollars in public financing.
The Rev Billy Talen campaign envisions a vibrant, just, healthy and livable city for all its residents. Celebrating the local shop keepers and long term residents of the diverse neighborhoods of NYC and protecting and nurturing those neighborhoods makes this campaign unique in an election season that is filled with corporate bailouts and severe budget cuts in transit, health and education. Even in these dire economic times, Rev. Billy has inspired New Yorkers to sing!