Greens Get Statehouse Seat

The Green Party won two major victories in April with election of a Green candidate to the California state assembly in the Oakland area and a federal court ruling that should make it easier for Green organizers to petition for ballot status in Arizona.

Audie Bock, a single mother and Asian studies scholar from Piedmont, narrowly beat former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris to become the first Green candidate to win a state legislative seat in the United States. "This is a message from the voters to the Democratic Party machine that they aren't happy with what they've been offered," said Bock, who will represent Piedmont, Alameda and part of Oakland. Her victory margin was 336 votes. She added, "The Green Party of California is thrilled that we will finally be able to bring our populist message to the state level."

Greens hold more than 250 seats in national legislatures around the world, and are part of the ruling majority in Germany, but in the United States the party has won 63 city and county offices. Their biggest California prize had been control of the Arcata City Council, in northern California, where they hold three of five seats.

Bock, 53, runs a foreign film distribution business out of her home and she was a part-time instructor in Ethnic Studies in an Oakland community college. She was outspent 20 to 1 by Harris, a former two-term mayor and legislator, but she was the beneficiary of a low 15% turnout to fill the seat formerly held by a Democrat who was elected to the state Senate last year. In the primary election in February, she took only 8.7% of the vote, while Harris came within 1.3 points of winning an absolute majority and avoiding a run-off. Most of the rest of the vote went to another Democrat battling Harris, but under California law the top two candidates from different parties are matched in the runoff, and there was no Republican candidate in the heavily Democratic district.

Bock campaigned on a new education policy, environmental justice, health care for all and tax reform, including a lower property tax rate for homeowners than business property owners.

The Green Party claims to be the fastest growing political party in California. With 100,000 registrations, it is conducting a voter registration drive and hopes to triple its size by the end of next year.

In Arizona, U.S. District Judge William Browning struck down a state law that prohibits registered members of recognized parties--which were Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians when the lawsuit was filed in 1996--from signing nominating petitions for independent candidates. Green Party plaintiffs also challenged Arizona's early filing deadline and the number of signatures required to place an independent candidate on the ballot.

In his decision, Judge Browning said, "In combination, the June 27 deadline (the third earliest in the nation), the mandated non-qualified party status of nomination petition signors (the only one in the nation), and the requirement of 3% of the voters in the last election who were not affiliated with a qualified party impose severe burdens on voters and non-qualified party candidates."

New Party Gains

The New Party also has scored some electoral victories. Chicago New Party chair Ted Thomas received the most votes in the primary election for Alderman in the 15th Ward (Southside). Floyd Thomas also made a run-off for Alderman in the 19th Ward after placing second in the primary. The run-off election was April 13.

In Minnesota, Progressive Minnesota/NP Candidate Gail Dorfman won the Democratic primary for county commissioner, winning 54% of the vote in an 8-way race.

In New York, the Working Families Party, affiliated with the New Party, won a historic upset victory by helping to defeat two Republican candidates in Hempstead for the first time in 20 years. The Working Families Party's two nominated candidates--Hezekiah Brown and Wayne Hall--ran on both the WFP and Democratic lines. The WFP ran the grassroots campaign, mobilizing ACORN members, NP members and others to make 10,000 phone calls and knock on thousands of doors to identify supporters and turn them out to the polls.

The Working Families Party remains undefeated since it won ballot status last November. In February, it backed community activist Christine Quinn, who won a special election for a New York city council seat in Chelsea/West Village.

In Oregon: Portland New Party leader Geri Washington ousted a 12-year incumbent to win a seat on the Multnomah County Education Services District, which runs alternative education programs, including special education, teen parent programs, bilingual education, and gifted programs. Her campaign focused on opposing school closures in low-income communities, promoting parental involvement, more teacher training, better school-to-work programs, and accessible student transportation.

In Wisconsin: Progressive Dane and the South Central Federation of Labor helped push the Dane County (Madison) Board to overwhelmingly pass a measure that provides a living wage (100% of the poverty level for a family of four) for all county employees and employees of county contractors. The county also established a review council to monitor the living wage provisions and consider extending health benefits to those employees.

Corporations Raid
Public Funds

Greg LeRoy has released his Terrible Ten Candy Store Deals of 1998, a list of dubious state and local corporate welfare deals nominated by grassroots organizations across the country. The Terrible Ten were released in the May issue of The Progressive magazine.

LeRoy, author of the 1994 book No More Candy Store and founder of Good Jobs First, a national clearinghouse on job subsidies at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said: "This is what poses for 'economic development' in America today: states admitting that corporations will pay no income tax for 15 or 20 years, a city admitting that it pays for jobs from other states, and deals routinely costing more than $100,000 per job.

"Horror stories like these explain why economic development is getting such poor results," said LeRoy. "Despite a massive 20-year increase in spending by states and cities, average wages for working people have been declining. Most development subsidies are officially indifferent to job quality. That is a scandal."

#1: Willamette Industries' lumber mill expansion in Hawesville Kentucky is entitled to $132.2 million in tax credits to create 15 jobs--$8.8 million a job!

#2: The New York Stock Exchange pulled down a package worth at least $600 million just to stay put--at least $109,000 per job.

#3: Norton Healthcare is buying three hospitals in the Louisville area with help from tax-free industrial revenue bonds, but hasn't recognized nurses who voted for a union.

#4: Tax increment financing in Minnesota is subsidizing at least 31 companies at $100,000 or more per job. But some TIF deals are merely corporate relocations.

#5: Hazelwood, Missouri residents are battling City Hall over a controversial industrial park financed by TIF, made possible by a pre-blight designation of their farming area.

#6: Ipsco, a steel mini-mill company, is getting subsidies in Alabama worth $166,000 to $187,500, as much as Mercedes got. The company won't pay any income tax for 20 years.

#7: Brownsville, Texas admits it subsidizes the transfer of jobs from other states, perhaps even some from Des Moines, where Steelworkers are striking Titan Wheel.

#8: Hyundai is suing Eugene, Oregon, for a 100% property tax abatement on a microchip plant, apparently not satisfied with an 85% deal worth $110 million.

#9: Shintech withdrew plans for a plastics plant in Louisiana's "cancer alley" before a possible environmental racism decision against it; the plant was slated for subsidies worth $469,000 per job. "These are all off-the-shelf incentives," the company said.

#10: Avondale Industries near New Orleans has received subsidies estimated at $119 million, but it hasn't recognized its workers, who voted for a union in 1993.

Honorable Mention: to Time Warner for running its November series in Time magazine on corporate welfare, including a box announcing that it will seek a "large incentives package" for a new Manhattan headquarters ... however the deal is "not contingent" on the subsidies ... but oh, did you notice, nine other media companies got theirs?

Seattle Rejects MAI

Seattle, the host city for the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting later this year, has passed a resolution opposing the Multilateral Agreement on Investments "or MAI-like rules in other fora including the WTO." The city council vote on April 12 was unanimous. The WTO ministers arrive in Seattle the week after Thanksgiving. Fair trade organizations are circulating a petition opposing a new round of comprehensive trade liberalization negotiations until deficiencies in the WTO system are rectified. For more information contact Ruth Caplan of the Alliance for Democracy, rcaplan@igc.org, or contact the Alliance for Democracy, PO Box 683, Lincoln, MA 01773, 617-259-9395.

Non-Violent Inmates Top 1M

Get-tough crime-fighting policies such as mandatory minimum sentences and "three strikes, you're out'' laws helped drive the number of nonviolent inmates in American jails and prisons above 1 million last year, the Justice Policy Institute reported in April. Since 1978, the number of criminals entering jail or prison for violent offenses doubled, while those entering incarceration for nonviolent convictions tripled. The study follows a Justice Department report that showed the country's prison and jail population overall rose to about 1.8 million by the middle of last year--its highest level ever, and double the number from 12 years before.

Dow Breaks 10K but Household Wealth Down

Behind the hoopla of the booming economy, most Americans have actually lost wealth, according to a new report, Shifting Fortunes: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, by Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright and Holly Sklar. Most households have a lower net worth than they did in 1983, when the Dow was still at 1,000.

The report's key findings include:

* Almost 90% of the value of all stocks and mutual funds owned by households is held by the richest 10%.

* The inflation-adjusted net worth of the median household fell from $54,600 in 1989 to $49,900 in 1997. Nearly one out of five households have zero or negative net worth, an increase from the 1980s.

* Weekly wages for average workers in 1998 were 12% below 1973, adjusting for inflation. Productivity grew nearly 33% in the same period.

* Since the 1970s, the top 1% of households have doubled their share of national wealth. They now have more wealth than the entire bottom 95%.

* With mortgage interest rates at low levels, the U.S. home ownership rate hit a record 66% in 1998, but for people under age 55, home ownership rates actually were lower in 1998 than in 1992.

* Household debt as a percentage of personal income rose from 58% in 1973 to an estimated 85% in 1997.

"We've had over two decades of public policies and corporate policies benefitting affluent asset owners at the expense of wage earners," said Chuck Collins, co-director of United for a Fair Economy, which published the report. For a copy ($6.95) call 617-423-2148, email stw@stw.org or see excerpts on the web at (www.stw.org).

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 1999 The Progressive Populist