Report on Green Policy Conference, Madison, Wisconsin

6/20/2005

Title: Report on Green Policy Conference, Madison, Wisconsin
By Dean Myerson, Executive Director of the Green Institute
June 24-26, 2005

The Green Institute, the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic
Revolution and the Havens Center sponsored a conference or retreat on
the University of Wisconsin in Madison to discuss officeholder
coordination, education and assistance. The meeting was attended by 13
officeholders, seven from Wisconsin, two from California, and one each
from Illinois, Oregon, Washington, DC, and Wyoming. A number of
attendees received financial support for their travel expenses. Also
attending were representatives of the sponsoring organizations: Dean
Myerson for the Green Institute, Ben Manski and Juscha Robinson for
Liberty Tree, and Patrick Barrett for Liberty Tree and the Havens
Center.

The first day started off with an extended round of introductions
where officeholders described their local governance models and
challenges. After approving an agenda, the attendees discussed such
issues as how to govern when in a minority on their elected council and
how to communicate with constituents. Also discussed were focus areas,
key issues and tools that would be useful to do a better job of
implementing progressive policy. Conference participants prioritized
strategies to get more people involved in politics and how to build
citizen support networks and frame issues to communicate effectively.

Photo by: Ben Manski

The discussion on the second day focused more on issues and
specifics. The list of priority issues from the previous day was
further developed and addressed, as were tools that officeholders felt
were most needed. National/International vs. Local issues were
particularly examined, with some participants contending that national
and international issues have an important local impact, though some
described how difficult it is to address such issues on their councils.

The day closed with discussion of specific actions that would follow
the meeting. From the list of desired tools, three were most clearly
identified as action items for the Green Institute to proceed on. These
are: a database of progressive officeholders that can be used for
outreach on key policies that officeholders want to refer to and
coordinate; a database of implemented ordinances and policies as well
as proposed model ordinances that officeholders can use; and a series
of governance seminars in which less experienced officeholders can
learn how to govern more effectively, achieve more politically and draw
on and encourage grassroots participation.

Such seminars will be local or regional in scale, not large-scale
conferences. Seminar subject matter and topics to include: How to work
with media (soundbites, strategy, press releases); local party(s);
public interest and citizen groups; getting votes (of fellow electeds);
getting constituents to work with you; impact of getting elected;
diversity of officeholder types; time management; using office to
create system change; using office to bolster democracy movement; and
balance between practical and systemic change/reform agendas.

Interest was also expressed in coordinated action on up to three
issues, though only one was adopted for short term action: resolutions
calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Attendees expressed that
this is not just a national/international issue, but that it has
significant local, financial and social/political impacts. It was
acknowledged that not all officeholders could move on such a resolution
quickly, but it was pointed out that there are some that can do so, and
this can provide the political space for more cities and counties to
adopt such a resolution. Some form of out of Iraq month to jump-start
the resolutions may be chosen for later this year as this project
develops.

Other issues on which interest was expressed for coordination
include challenging corporate power and how it undermines local
democracy and electoral reform, particularly including Instant Runoff
Voting and proportional representation. Global warming and undue
corporate influence on national policy was focused on as one example
among many. It was felt that more preparation and education was needed
on the corporate power issue before moving to coordinated action on
councils and that moving to adopt IRV is more specific to the political
environment in different cities.