Saturday marked a significant effort by the Green Party to expand its influence in New Haven.
On Saturday morning, members of the Green Party of Connecticut sat down in the children’s activity room of the New Haven Free Public Library to discuss the future of their party’s platform. The meeting, the first of its kind for the state’s chapter of the party, saw nine Green Party supporters and three members of the party’s state executive committee debate the wording and content of the changes to the state platform submitted by local party members. Later that day, Green Party vice presidential hopeful Howie Hawkins spoke in the Elm City to drum up support for the pary’s presidential ticket, headed by Jill Stein.
“We need to find out what information people need in order to make an informed decision on our platform,” Patricia Kane, the state chapter’s secretary, said. “If you don’t know enough about an issue or understand a policy, how do you vote on it?”
Kane, who is one of the members of the party’s five-person state executive committee, said she did not know how many attendees to expect, but was very happy with how the meeting went. Members of all four formal chapters of the Green Party of Connecticut — New Haven, New London, Hartford and Fairfield — constituted the 12 attendees.
She added that she hopes news of the meeting travels by “word of mouth” to other Green Party supporters and that similar events take place in the future throughout the state.
Ronna Stuller, co-chair of the executive committee, said she was also pleased with Saturday’s meeting.
“Every group can be contentious, but talking about the issues makes us think of why we exist as a party and why we need to have a political presence,” Stuller said. “It brings people together for a common goal, even if they don’t get along on a personal level.”
Later in the day at Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street, Hawkins spoke to a group of volunteer petitioners from the Connecticut branch of the National Green Party.
Connecticut Green Party co-chair Mike DeRosa, who was in attendance at Atticus, said the petitioners are trying to qualify a Green Party candidate for the 2012 presidential ballot. DeRosa and Kane both said they expect Stein to be the party’s nominee, which will be determined this summer.
“There are rules which serve to keep third parties off the ballot, so we need to petition for proof of support,” DeRosa said. “It’s just another example of the two-party duopoly that people are growing more frustrated with.”
Recent elections, he said, have shown an increase in the number of people willing to vote for third parties. He added that there are approximately 1,900 registered Connecticut Greens, and that he estimates that 20,000 state voters identify with the party — 2 percent of the state-wide vote.
“We don’t have the use of traditional, conventional media, like the Democrats or the Republicans, to get our message out there,” Kane said. “We don’t have billionaires backing us up, so we have to be innovative.”
The Green Party is still in a “fledgling stage,” Kane added, but with the prominence of the Occupy movement and general dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, “people are looking for alternatives” to the traditional party system.
Green Party member Jerry Martin described the party as a “very loose group of individuals with very different goals,” and added that it is sometimes difficult to juggle everyone’s wishes, as they come from varied activist groups and volunteer organizations. He said some members are focused on local and state issues, while others want to work toward national goals.
“We have a bottom-up power structure — power really resides in statewide party membership,” Kane said, emphasizing the Green Party’s differences from the nation’s two major parties. “The chapters are quite autonomous and the executive committee doesn’t control who runs for office.”
The amendments to the state party platform discussed Saturday morning included the elimination of corporate personhood, the abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a land value tax. Later this spring, the statewide Central Committee will vote on the proposed changes in a public meeting to be held in Portland, Conn.