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Synthesis/Regeneration 22   (Spring 2000)

Local Green Politics

Activities of the Green Party of New Jersey

by Madelyn Hoffman, Green Party of New Jersey

Greens in New Jersey are actively bridging the gap between grass roots organizing efforts and electoral work. Synthesis/Regeneration 21 published an article describing the Green Party of New Jersey's (GPNJ) work against police brutality. No other political party in our state comes close to showing the courage to take a strong political position on this issue together with those who are victimized by police brutality.

The anti-police brutality work continues in earnest, but there are other areas in which NJ Greens are busy. The ability to count on the Greens for support at rallies and public hearings can only help the challenging long-term effort to persuade activists that support for the Green Party at election time will promote their cause. It places Greens in the middle of extremely important political issues with an opportunity to affect their outcome.

GPNJ Forms "Green Campaign 2000"

In anticipation of a Green Party presidential campaign, GPNJ is conducting a petition drive to place Ralph Nader's name on the ballot. While other candidates are being considered at the national level, the NJ Greens decided to endorse a Nader candidacy. On Sunday, January 30, Green Campaign 2000 organized its own "Super Sunday," sending out teams of activists to gather the required 800 valid signatures. Since New Jersey's requirements for placing Nader's name on the ballot are easier than most states, the NJ Green Party is determined to be first to accomplish this task.

In addition, the Greens are hoping to field congressional candidates in as many of New Jersey's 13 districts as possible, and discussions are ongoing regarding entering the race for US Senate to fill the vacancy created by the announced retirement of Frank Lautenberg. One important consideration motivating this is the fact that in New Jersey the presence of three federal-level candidates (President/Senate/Congress) in a congressional district gives a minor party the opportunity to have their own line on the ballot in those districts. We are also encouraging candidates to run as Greens at the local level, buoyed by the statewide races. This year, for the first time, NJ Greens are hoping to make their presence felt on the national, state and local levels.

GPNJ Works with Other Independent Political Parties

The Green Party is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Council of Alternative Political Parties (CAPP) in New Jersey. If successful, this lawsuit will allow New Jersey voters to register as members of the Green Party. CAPP brought together the Green, Reform, Natural Law, Libertarian, and US Constitution parties to file this lawsuit to allow NJ voters to register with the third party of their choice. It would be a great boost to the Green Party if, on the one hand, people could indicate their support for us by registering "Green" and, on the other hand, if we could obtain lists of those who have registered "Green"—as is currently true only for the Democrats and Republicans.

Aside from the difficulties presented by the "winner-take-all" system, the major parties in New Jersey have imposed particularly restrictive and prohibitive laws. No third party has qualified as an officially recognized party, and hence no one in NJ has been able to register anything but "Democrat," "Republican," or "Independent," since the current laws went into effect in 1920.

GPNJ Supports Efforts to End Garbage Incineration

A few summers ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for states, counties or other solid waste districts to control the flow of garbage within their borders and to require that the garbage be brought to one specific location. This ruling sent shock waves through states, counties and solid waste districts that had contracted to build garbage incinerators, relying on a "put or pay" contract—one that required each district to supply a set amount of trash every year for the terms of the contract, anywhere from 10-30 years, or else pay a severe financial penalty. New Jersey was one of those states required to find an alternative plan for handling its trash, since five incinerators had been built under the old rules.

This past summer it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Montclair Township Council and other Essex County municipalities would agree to "voluntarily" ship their trash to the Newark garbage incinerator for at least the next 10 years. But a small and vocal group of Montclair residents, joined by long-time activists against incineration and local members of the Green Party, began to express their opposition to this plan at every opportunity.

The Green Party supports the desire of local groups, like Solid Waste Alternative Partners (SWAP), to see trash handled in a sustainable way, not through incineration. Together with local groups, the Greens urged Montclair and other Essex County towns to pursue alternatives that would be cheaper and less harmful to the environment. Towns could implement new recycling and food composting programs and bolster existing programs.

While, unfortunately, Montclair voted to participate in this contract, numerous changes were made to the contract to reflect residents' concerns about recycling and the mandatory "put or pay" provision turned "voluntary" that nearly bankrupted Essex County. Bailing out the incinerator, which if left to compete on the open market would price itself out of business, is neither a safe nor a healthy option. Efforts continue to expand recycling programs and to convince Montclair and other towns that incineration is not the way to handle the county's trash.

Residents of Newark and Elizabeth are embroiled in a fight to seriously limit, if not eliminate, the amount of New York City garbage coming to the plant, meaning increased truck traffic, increased pollution risk, and increased risk of accidents. This is an issue of environmental justice.

GPNJ Supports Efforts To Preserve Open Space

GPNJ recently joined the efforts of two local coalitions of environmental groups attempting to preserve open space. The first involves plans by Wal-Mart to develop land surrounding a local pond. Some Green activists believe that the pond may be only the first location targeted by Wal-Mart who may be using that to draw attention away from their actual plans. According to How Wal-Mart is Destroying America, Wal-Mart often has independent developers purchase lots for "undetermined" retailers. These developers do all the research, lobby to change codes, get the variances, and then turn everything over to Wal-Mart.

The other is a battle to preserve the Hackensack Meadowlands instead of turning it over to Meadowlands Mills to build a mega-mall. The Meadowlands continues to be at risk from developers and a state agency which seems determined to continue facilitating urban sprawl. Incredibly, only 900 out of its 8,500 acres are permanently preserved.

The Green Party of NJ and the Bergen County Greens support this effort spearheaded by the Hackensack Meadowlands Preservation Alliance. The Alliance seeks to protect the wetlands of the Hackensack Meadowlands, the ecological heart of the region; direct economic development to existing centers; and prevent sprawl development.

GPNJ Spearheads "Project on Corporate Accountability"

The GPNJ continues its work to establish a labor-environmental coalition dedicated to challenging corporate personhood and corporate dominance of the political process, domestically and internationally. The Project has two goals:

1. Propose revisions to NJ's current Corporate Code of Conduct. If implemented, the revisions would return to the citizens power which was slowly siphoned off by corporations — endangering our democracy.

2. Research proposals for safe and sustainable ways for corporations to function in society. We have particular interest in the Natural Step program, originally from Sweden, which purports to be based on principles of ecosystem sustainability.

GPNJ Supports an Immediate Moratorium on Executions

GPNJ supports the nationwide campaign for an immediate halt to executions in our country. Equal Justice USA, a project of the Maryland-based Quixote Center, recently issued a call for a moratorium on capital punishment. The Government Accounting Office issued a report which indicates a pattern of racial disparities in capital cases. Further, the American Bar Association has said to date that no state has met all of the ABA's policies for administration of the death penalty, including standards for representation for indigent defendants.

GPNJ Supports Efforts to Establish Campus Greens

This generation has a staggering irreverence toward politics, the environment, and many social issues. In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, voter turnout is pathetic, and in fact, is the second lowest in the world... Once this generation of teens enters adulthood, the ones who actually vote will most likely base their choice on their parents' preferences and the words of television commercials. Without thinking about their own beliefs or knowing all but shallow details of candidates, many will cast their vote down a meaningless Democrat or Republican party line. Campus Greens hopes to change that....We also want to collect signatures to place Ralph Nader on the New Jersey ballot, an exciting though demanding effort which will enforce our grassroots values.

—Chris Perry, student at Princeton High School

The Campus Greens were founded by Nick Mellis, Treasurer of the Association of State Green Parties and member of the Green Party of New Jersey. We hope the Princeton High School chapter will be the first of many Campus Greens locals.

Information about the New Jersey Green Party can be found at http://www.gpnj.org/

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