Article: Greens convene, party on at UCLA - Statewide members meet for political workshops, celebrate group’s recognition

By Teri H.P. Nguyen, Daily Bruin Contributor

Introducing their full slate of candidates for the 2002 state elections, the Green Party of California convened at UCLA over the weekend, where they ate tofu, listened to jazz and got down to politics.

The conference signified not only the 10th anniversary of the Green Party’s presence in California politics but was also the first state meeting since the party’s official recognition as a national party from the Federal Elections Commission.

The event joined statewide registered greens, from politicians to community members, for an evening of music, dinner and celebration.

As part of the weekend event, the party offered four workshops to the general public that were attended mainly by registered greens. The topics included criminal justice, living wage, renters’ rights and political theater.

Kevin McKeown, former KROQ DJ turned mayor pro tem of Santa Monica and a member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, moderated one of the workshops. He became a Green Party member when he began feeling the Democrats had started to move toward the corporate world, McKeown said.

“The values of the Democratic party are no longer progressive,” McKeown said. “I am appalled by them.”

Mayor of Santa Monica Mike Feinstein, a co-founder of the Green Party in California, attended the celebration.

Although sharing similar sentiments as McKeown regarding Democratic politics, Feinstein said the Green Party has matured in spirit but now needs to run a campaign.

“Many believe that money was part of the corruption,” Feinstein said. “But we must learn to ask for money, and that honest politics is possible in a rough and tumble world.”

Feinstein was inspired to create an organization offering alternative political activism in California after attending a spiritual conference in Scotland. This conference was started by a family after the people claimed to see certain plant spirits.

The conference Feinstein attended – “Individual and the Collection of Politics as if the Whole Earth Mattered” – gave Feinstein the idea for a political party that combines politics, economics and the environment.

Many people define Green Party members as environmentalists. It is also this environmentalist mentality mixed with one of social justice that is turning many green, including 2003 Sixth District L.A. City Council member hopeful Sheila Bernard, who attended the conference.

Affordable housing and the living wage are important issues the Green Party is addressing, said Bernard, a teacher. This is a principle reason for her leaving the school system for politics.

“Each day my students bring in problems that go beyond education, problems that I cannot fix as a teacher,” Bernard said of student’s financial and rent issues. “I feel I can do more to help by going into politics.”

Saturday’s event proved to be quite a spirit-lifter for the party. Attendees were entertained by speeches made by fellow Greens and music played by fellow party members.

“It is important for party members to feel ownership of the party,” Feinstein said. “This event did that.”