Oakland’s new Green Party chapter tackles housing, economic issues
on February 17, 2011
The newly minted Oakland chapter of the Green Party met for the second time on Tuesday evening in the modest offices of PUEBLO (People United for a Better Life in Oakland) off of Fruitvale Avenue. There was pizza and homemade vegetable soup for dinner, and a look at the party’s progressive platforms and plans for the chapter were on the menu for discussion.
The Oakland chapter, which is a subset of the Alameda County chapter of the Green Party, will meet monthly to discuss issues that affect the city. This Tuesday’s topics included the use of city redevelopment funds, gang injunctions, and a discussion of “home defense,” or educating homeowners about their rights and what actions to take in the event of property repossession or foreclosure. The main item of discussion was whether the new chapter should join local housing organizations in an effort to create a statewide moratorium on home foreclosures.
The United States Green Party didn’t become officially recognized as a political party until 2001, but gained most of its national attention with Ralph Nader’s presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000. While it is often assumed the Green Party is focused primarily on environmental issues, social justice, universal healthcare and non-violent resistance are also usually at the heart of Green campaigns.
The Green Party’s East Bay contingency of elected officials who are active members is modest, but Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin is a Green. In the 2010 election, the Greens ran Don Macleay in the Oakland mayoral race, and also ran an Oakland resident, Laura Wells, in the California gubernatorial race.
Macleay’s mayoral race gave the local Greens assurance that there was enough interest in Oakland—4,000 registered Green voters in the city—to form a chapter that focused strictly on the needs of the city’s residents.
Green Party member Michael Rubin conducted Tuesday’s meeting, running through an agenda that was emailed out previously in the Oakland Greens’ first email newsletter. The newsletter, written and distributed by Macleay, gave a detailed rundown of the issues on the Green radar, and is part of Macleay’s larger effort to bring the Oakland Greens to the technological fore, along with a new web site, OaklandGreens.org.
Macleay was one of the more vocal members of the meeting. He and his mayoral campaign manager, community activist Orlando Johnson, sat side by side for much of the evening, reprising their partnership from election season. Nine other Greens were in attendance, as were five representatives from different home defense organizations which were hoping to form a relationship with the Oakland Greens.
Guest speaker Guillermo Briceno, director of Nuestra Casa Community Services, a non-profit based in Antioch, CA, talked about the challenges California residents face in a country where home foreclosure and repossession have become run of the mill. “Our clients don’t know their rights, and they don’t know what exactly they need to do,” said Briceno. “They are now finding that there is a tricky situation with the mortgage laws, and families are losing their houses. What you see here are complete failures of the legal system.”
Briceno then turned the floor over to Delia Aguilar, who recently experienced home foreclosure herself. Aguilar recounted a nightmarish story of trying to move back into her property, which she alleged was repossessed unlawfully. She asked that the Oakland Greens join her and Nuestra Casa in their mission to educate Californians about their rights as tenants, and that the Greens help petition for a moratorium on home foreclosures in the state.
“We’re asking you, the Green Party, to join us. Together we can put a stop to this,” said Briceno. He then passed around a packet outlining the details of a moratorium, which would have to be approved by county supervisors first, and then eventually, by the state.
The Green Party members in attendance agreed to participate, even suggesting joint forums with Nuestra Casa to begin talking to Oakland residents about similar housing issues. They sealed the agreement by signing on to Nuestra Casa’s email list and promising to sign a petition in favor of the moratorium once it is drafted.
Later in the meeting, Macleay led a discussion concerning the city’s use of redevelopment funds, expressing his concern that those funds, which are accrued from tax dollars and allotted by the state, are focused on retail and outside developers as opposed to local infrastructure and transportation. He said that part of the Oakland Greens’ activities should be “to work on spending public money on the public sector—that we don’t spend the people’s money on helping big business.”
The next Green Sunday, an event put on by the Alameda County Greens where the party hosts speakers on a particular community issue, will be dedicated to redevelopment funds. The event will be held March 2.
PUEBLO director Rashida Grinage, who was in attendance, discussed her organization’s position on the new gang injunction proposed by the Oakland City Attorney’s Office. The injunction, if approved by the courts, would restrict the activity of alleged Norteno gang members in the Fruitvale area.
“We feel that gang injunctions are a betrayal of community policing in a fundamental way. There is no evidence that they’ve been effective,” Grinage said. “While certain kinds of crimes have been reduced, others have risen. It seems as though crimes have risen in adjacent neighborhoods. So maybe what we’re seeing here what we’ve seen in other cities—that the turf has just been moved outside the suppression zone.” Green Party members nodded in agreement.
The Greens then moved on a discussion of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, and debated how best to stand apart from the Republican and Democratic parties on issues of taxation. They agreed to draft a letter in the coming weeks to the governor about what Macleay called “progressive taxation rather than balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.”
The meeting was adjourned with a quick set of announcements—members plugged anti-war protests and other community activities—and made plans for next time. The Oakland chapter of the Green Party will convene for a third time on March 16 at 6 p.m. at the PUEBLO office—the meetings are open to the public. To learn more, visit oaklandgreens.org.
Image: 2010 mayoral candidate Don Macleay, right, and his campaign manager Orlando Johnson, take part in the second meeting of the Oakland chapter of the Green Party.
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