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
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
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.
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
#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
#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
#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
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, email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or see
excerpts on the web at (www.stw.org).
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