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Jerry Brown - A Green Success?
A number of Greens started out in politics campaigning for Jerry Brown in the 1992 Presidential elections. It's true, the once-upon-a-time Zen-Governor of California did describe himself as a “recovering politician.” His nightly radio show on Pacifica touched on all sorts of ecological and radical issues, and his thundering speech to the Labor Party's founding convention in Cleveland in 1996 brought down the house.
Now Brown is the new mayor of Oakland, California. In the month he has been in office, he has been anything but Green.
There are five issues, especially, over which radicals, including many Greens, are taking Brown to task:
- (1) His support for hi-tech “development” of Oakland.
- (2) His paltry vision of “educational reform.”
- (3) His propagandizing for U.S. Marine Corps maneuvers in the city.
- (4) His opposition to a day of teach-ins in Oakland schools for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
- (5) His focus on adding police and bolstering prisons to address “quality of life” crimes.
Brown believes there is now “a business-friendly climate in City Hall.” Recognizing that “there's only so much room downtown” for development, Brown has turned to the decidedly “un-green” idea of what he calls “vertical density” for Oakland—that is, the erection of tall buildings. He summarized his perspective in a recent interview as “Go up, young man, not west.”
“Retail is coming,” he said in an interview in the San Francisco Examiner. “The president of The Gap—Mickey Drexler—came over here and was walking down Broadway and had lunch at Le Cheval just two hours ago. They're (The Gap) dying to come here.”
The boycott of Gap clothing by labor unions seems not to have crossed the mind of this Labor Party featured speaker. Protesters at Gap stores across the U.S. point to sweatshop conditions bordering on slave labor in The Gap's sub-contracted stores in the Caribbean and Asia. Yet this is the chain store that Jerry Brown sees as playing a large part in the revitalization of Oakland.
Activists are pointing out a major conflict of interest already developing with Jerry Brown—he's been dating a Gap executive, at the same time as the company is seeking to gain favorable real estate and tax abatements for investing downtown and entry into the public schools. Through its privately funded Edison Project, The Gap is a prime sponsor of an attempt to take over McClymonds High School, which is currently public, and run it as a charter, for-profit school.
As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle (February 11, 1999), “Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's education policy can be summed up in two words: charter schools. Charter mania is sweeping through Oakland in what most politicians and school officials agree is a sign that parents have lost patience with the slow pace of change in the city's public schools.”
The Edison Project is already operating four Bay Area schools. While not-for-profit charters do have advantages—particularly decentralized decision-making, room for innovation, flexibility—they also are a way for politicians to avoid responsibility for ensuring quality public education to large numbers of students, which requires a vast increase in funds for books, equipment, and teachers' salaries.
Brown, of course, denies that his relationship with attorney and Gap exec Anne Gust and a $25 million pledge to Edison by Don Fisher, the founder and chair of The Gap, has anything to do with his support for charter schools.
But all Brown has to do is look at the record. Besides owning The Gap, the Fisher family purchased 235,000 acres of redwoods in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties from Louisiana Pacific and formed the Mendocino Redwood Company. Mendocino Redwood is currently logging the last of the old-growth trees. It has adopted all of Louisiana Pacific's policies, such as clearcutting and the use of vast quantities of herbicides. The coast redwood forest will not recover from this assault, and at least one endangered species, the coho salmon, will be extinct within a year.
Handcuffed forest activists have been intentionally pepper sprayed when they attempted to block logging trucks from entering the forest. Earth First!er David “Gypsy” Chain was killed after warning a logger not to cut down the old growth trees. This is the legacy Jerry Brown is courting from Don Fisher and The Gap.
At the same time, he has butted heads with the Oakland Unified School District over its plan for teachers to discuss the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal in their classes last January 14. (Mumia is a journalist and former Black Panther who sits on death row in Pennsylvania for killing a cop in 1981—a crime many people, including me, believe he did not do. He had been sentenced to death following a trial that has been denounced by such unlikely partners as Amnesty International, U.S. Senator Arlen Spector, and Green Parties throughout the world, among many others, as blatantly unfair and discriminatory. On April 23 there will be a walkout of students around the world; and on April 24, thousands will travel to Philadelphia demanding a new trial for Mumia.) Brown opposed discussion of Mumia's case in the classroom, saying: “It was a dumb idea. This is a school district where in three of the six major high schools, only 10 percent of the kids are at grade level in reading. What we need is to get these kids organized so that they can go somewhere.… That's the issue.”
Finally, Brown agreed to support an “urban security” exercise and three-day military exposition in Oakland, which has anti-war activists (among them many Greens) outraged at Brown's betrayal of his proclaimed anti-militarism views. The exposition took place in March. Sixty different military technologies and weapons were displayed. Also in March, the Marine War-fighting laboratory conducted a mock battle at the abandoned Oak Knoll Naval Hospital grounds. There was an aerial demonstration and glorification of the military's preparations to “protect us” from domestic terrorist attack.
As Wilson Riles, Jr., formerly a representative on the Oakland City Council and now a member of the Black Radical Congress states: “This is outrageous considering the history and circumstances of Oakland. The bloated military budget has severely squeezed funds for urban programs; this will now be thrown in the face of Oakland citizens who will see $4.5 million pissed away on the Marines rather than in Oakland's failing schools, deteriorating infrastructure, job producing mechanisms.
“Oakland is a community which has been very clear on its opposition to military spending and military adventures overseas. Voters passed by wide margins both a Jobs with Peace initiative and a Nuclear Free Zone ordinance. The Oakland City Councils over the years have passed hundreds of resolutions in opposition to the defense budget and in favor of more productive uses. This City stood in opposition to the docking of the Missouri aircraft carrier in San Francisco Bay. Its present and past congresspersons stood in stark opposition to military expenditures and for positive urban development. This City's efforts to raise up examples for our youth of peaceful ways to solve problems rather than with guns and violence is being ignored.”
Students paid a visit to Brown's office in mid-March, demanding to talk with him about his booster- ism for the military's Urban Warrior war games in Oakland. Brown's assistant called the police, who used a crow bar to pry open the door and sprayed the students with mace.
The radical Jerry Brown is out the window. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Is this the inevitable result of putting one's efforts primarily into electoral politics? Or is it an exception? If the situation in California is any example, the Greens had better reevaluate their reasons for engaging in electoral politics and set definite goals as a movement in which electoral politics are only one facet of a strategy for social transformation.
Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of New York, and the Red Balloon Collective.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.