What happens when Greens run the town
Fairfax makes strides with Green Party controlled government
By Dave McCourquodale, Green Party of Delaware
The Winter 2010 issue of Green Pages contained an article on Fairfax, California, the only municipality in the country with a town council controlled by elected Greens. Please read that article as an introduction to this one, which covers other aspects of the story. Two years later the town council is still composed of a cooperative group of three Greens (Pam Hartwell-Herrero, current Mayor, Larry Bragman, and Ryan O’Neil) and two Democrats (John Reed and David Weinsoff). This follow-up is presented as an example of the possibilities of what can be accomplished locally when people are acting on green principles.
Fairfax, California is, in many ways, an exception to the way politics usually works in a small town in this country. California is one of the most progressive states. According to Ryan O’Neil, a Green member of the Fairfax town council, “Citizens in Fairfax and in Marin County in general are more progressive than other parts of the state and the nation in my opinion. Many of us find ourselves so integrated with our wild environment that standing up for ideals that help protect it comes almost as second nature to us. Once we see what can be accomplished from a grass roots campaign on the ‘ban of pesticides’ for example, the more empowered we become to challenge the next issue. It is hard to stop a community that works together for a common belief. Many people in Fairfax question authority and are not so trusting of large corporations that do not have their personal interests in mind.”
Pam Hartwell-Herrero, another Green and current acting Mayor said “We do what our community wants and we do what is right for our community in order to keep it a great place to live, not for our future political gain. Politicians who are only concerned with their own future don’t take risks and don’t want to stick their neck out for fear of getting their heads cut off.”
Former Mayor Larry Bragman, the third Green member of the council sees Fairfax as a microcosm of the world: “We need to rebuild the infrastructure of our planet one community at a time and Fairfax is an excellent platform to put these goals into action on a local level.”
A cooperative spirit prevails between the council and town employees, not only within the town council, where Hartwell-Herrero says differences “are usually not green issues as much as efficiency of local government, staffing, and consolidation measures.” O’Neil said, “The city employees made some concessions with the pay scales… knowing that we are dealing with a decline in revenues due largely in part to a decline in property values in general.”
One of the major initiatives in the past year, according to Hartwell-Herrero, was “the recent Resource Hauling contract that Former Mayor Larry Bragman and I negotiated with our existing ‘waste hauler’. It is a very progressive contract that calls for re-openers and tracking of metrics if we are not reaching our zero waste goals. It will require town support, active citizenry and work by the council to get up and running and to be successful.”
Bragman points to programs developed when he was mayor: “The ‘feet first’ campaign emphasized walking and bicycling in Fairfax. Feet first included promoting pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements. Safe bike lanes, encouraging sidewalk improvements, and the passage of a ‘complete streets’ resolution which mandates giving equal attention to pedestrian and bicycle uses of the public rights of way.
“Another health aspect is removing toxins from our communities. Fairfax has long had a pesticide notification policy requiring residents to notify neighbors if they’re going to be doing large sprays, and no use of pesticides in public lands. Additionally, we were the first city in Marin to pass a resolution against the notorious ‘light brown apple moth’ program which would have dumped massive amounts of aerial pesticides over the Bay Area. Fairfax also passed a resolution urging our water district to phase out pesticide and herbicide use in our watershed.”
With Greens on the council since 2007, an impressive list of green initiatives have been passed including: successful measures to ban genetically modified food from Marin County, supporting a living wage for the Town of Fairfax and to protect ballot secrecy in local elections. Currently, the town council temporarily halted the Pacific Gas & Electric installation of smart meters until more is known about their effects. Another recent resolution was passed declaring Fairfax a Chemtrail-Free Zone. In keeping with Greens’ key value of non-violence, it passed a resolution to emphasize that those applying for a permit to build a large project, to which many citizens object, should not be subject to intimidation.
The Fairfax town council is often willing to pass resolutions on issues which are state or nationally related, such as: objecting to the military detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act; urging Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule cannabis as a drug with recognized medical benefits and opposing the Department of Justice crackdown on medical marijuana clinics; calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing corporate personhood; and supported establishing a State of California Investment Bank.
Bragman believes the Green Party has a unique opportunity to act as “honest brokers” if it can win the trust of voters by setting out a consistent program including: “bringing jobs back home instead of relying on low-wage, high-carbon imports; direct investment to repair antiquated and crumbling public infrastructure; Medicare for all; local food production; local energy projects and a redefinition of national security.”