Get to business at GPUS Annual National Meeting
by Jan Martell, North Carolina Green Party
This year the Green Party Annual National Meeting was held in conjunction with the second U.S. Social Forum (USSF) drawing together activists and people representing often little heard voices from cultures around the world. Held in Detroit this June, there was a strong Green presence at the USSF as Green Party members presented a number of forum workshops.
The Michigan Green Party and Detroit Greens were well represented at the forum, particularly on the first day, which was themed to introduce forum attendees to Detroit, its deep and ongoing economic challenges, and its growing community support networks. Green Party attendees had an opportunity to attend hundreds of workshops, people’s assemblies, actions, and events.
“The USSF, with scores of groups involved, thousands of total attendees, and literally a hundred choices of a workshop to attend every two hours, was just too overwhelming. After one day there, I was content to attend the Green Party events at Wayne State and avoided returning downtown to Cobo Hall,” said David McCorquodale of the Green Party of Delaware.
While social activist groups worldwide were meeting at the forum, Greens nationwide came together to attend to Party business, work on the platform, meet candidates, and network with members from other states. “As at past annual meetings, the most exciting part for me was seeing some of the people who will be candidates for office. It is hopeful to hear articulate, informed Greens who will be representing our views,” McCorquodale said.
The GPUS meeting itself included: workshops on the GPUS budget, designed to allow input from members on budget priorities; a brainstorming session on strategic planning for the party, in which members got a chance to see how strategic planning is done in an overall sense, and to choose some issues to discuss in breakout sessions. There were meetings of some of the caucuses and committees, including the new Southeast-Southwest Caucus; press conferences as well as a mixer event to present Green candidates for office; a session on platform amendments with breakout groups to get input on current amendment proposals; and a panel on healthcare, followed by a fundraising dinner.
Budget ñ GPUS finances are much improved over last year, with all bills associated with the 2008 convention in Chicago paid at this point. Sharing funds are beginning to be distributed to the state parties as money comes in; some loans from members are still unpaid, and earmarked funds for caucuses and committees may still be on hold until our fundraising efforts become stronger. Because the party is legally obligated to pay outstanding bills first, it is unable to distribute contributions that have been marked by donors for specific purposes to the appropriate caucuses and committees until the party can rise above the basic operational funding level. Groups such as the Black Caucus and the International Committee are increasingly frustrated, as they have been owed funds for years.
Platform ñ Platform amendments, which have been posted on the GPUS website since April for commenting by all, enters the voting queue on a rolling basis over the summer. Comments can still be taken up to about a week before the section goes into the discussion phase, allowing the sponsoring states to respond to comments by revising their amendments before submission. Revision for each section will then go to an up or down vote by the National Committee. The new platform will be formatted and launched in September.
Southeast/Southwest Caucus ñ This is not an officially recognized or constituted GPUS Caucus, but an informal alliance of state Green parties from Maryland to Arizona, who share ballot access challenges and consequent under-representation in the Party. National committee member Theresa El-Amin proposed a strategy of “crossing the line” where neighboring states can assist in ballot access petitioning efforts, by crossing state lines to gather signatures. There was discussion of working together toward changing the delegate apportionment formula to one that is fairer to Southern states, for example reverting back to the previous formula.
In addition to the published agenda, Kat Swift made a report on the difficulties in the Texas ballot access drive. Through the services of Free & Equal, run by Sean Haugh and Christina Tobin, Texas Greens succeeded in gaining a ballot line in May. Democrats responded by obtaining a temporary restraining order against Green candidates filing, alleging that the funding of the drive was illegal, though their claim was shaky at best. The TGP sued to have it lifted. It lost on the first round, but won at the state Supreme Court level in time for the candidates to file by the deadline. The story is further complicated by the fact that the petitioning drive was paid for by a contribution from what eventually proved to be a corporate source. This is not a legal issue, but an ethical one for the Party, as it is against its bylaws. It warrants some caution and more transparency in any future relationship state Green Parties may have with Free & Equal.
There was a minor misunderstanding at the meeting when Haugh and Tobin mistakenly signed the plenary session on the roster used for delegate roll call. One of the steering committee members checking the attendance questioned the strange names, at which Tobin claimed to have been thrown out of the meeting, and complained on Internet social media. A lot of buzz and bad feeling followed, complicated as one of the local candidates from Chicago was offended by Tobin’s presence because of his experience with Free & Equal in Chicago races.
The evening mixer, where Green candidates for office in many states made speeches, was a really positive, entertaining and exciting event. A diverse group of strong, energetic candidates showed real ability to communicate and a strong grasp of the issues. It is wonderful to see so much energy and commitment behind these campaigns.
Theresa El-Amin (NC), Julie Jacobson (HI), and Craig Thorsen (CA) were elected to the GPUS Steering Committee. Jeff Turner (HI) is the new Treasurer.