Friday, March 30, 2007
Mayor Jason West to Run for Re-election
I remember the first time I heard of Jason West, it was April of 2003. I got an email forwarded on from a friend in our local Green Party, it said that in New Paltz, New York, a slate of Greens were running for Village office. They had the school behind them, and they are going to at least make it interesting, did anyone what to come down and help? I don't think anyone made the 4 hour drive from Rochester to help out that final weekend, we we're very busy working on a City School Board and City Council race. Besides, College students rarely show up to vote in May elections. I didn't really think about it again. Well, at least not until I got the next email. The email that said they won, they all won. A Green will be a mayor in New York! Greens got elected. Now, I am fairly optimistic but I figured it would be a while before we started winning even the small races.
This idea of elected officials was a new idea to us. I thought we could and should be winning small races, I just didn't expect us to be winning anytime soon. Oddly enough, 5 months later I was expecting us to win a seat on the City Council. Dare to hope.
At our next canvassing effort, we probably had about 30 volunteers in an abandoned parking lot. Our candidate for City Council held up a newspaper with that famous picture of Jason, Rebecca, and Julia leaning on the fence. He said what makes this picture so special, and so amazing, is these 3 Greens are elected officials, these Greens won an election in New York. The whole Green electoral landscape in Rochester really changed shape at that moment. People believed that we could find small races and win them.
Since then, one Green has been elected to a School Board in a Rochester suburb, and Green campaigns, candidate recruitment, strategy, and race selection have dramatically improved. Our size still limits our options, but we are moving forward, and we will be successful. We will find those special candidates and run in the right races, we will wear out our shoes but we will do so knowing it was worth it. Jason West gave us that.
In the weeks following the New Paltz victories, we heard stories, possibly tall tales, of the old guard, the Democrats, and the media freaking out about what a Green Mayor would do to their wonderful Village over the next four years. To be fair, not all of them thought he would last four years, or even a year. We heard the inaugural celebration included solar powered speakers, vegan/organic snacks, and of course, puppets! We heard the joy and celebration amongst Greens and the fear amongst the Democrats.
Then we heard about the really good stuff. The new Village Board changed the practices that were polluting their river. They added solar panels to the Village Hall. They worked on a strategic plan to preserve open space and implement affordable housing. They took on environmental responsibility and economic sustainability when they challenged the old guard's practice of trucking their sewage 250 miles away to landfill in Waterloo, NY, and began work on the first of three sewage reed beds for the Village waste.
More doors opened for the Green Party. Not only could Greens win, they could govern. The Village of New Paltz gave Greens the chance to prove it, and they sure did.
Julia Walsh was never registered in the Green Party, and became a Democrat. She allowed her participation on the Village Board to fade a bit after her non-profit organization was founded.
Mayor Jason West, and Deputy Mayor Rebecca Rotlzer held onto their values as the Democratic Party tried to tempt them away. Jason and Rebecca are two of the most important Greens in the country, and have both played critical roles in the advancement of our party.
Less than one year into their first term in a crowed Village park, Mayor Jason West solemnized the marriage of two of his best friends. Jason presided over 11 more same-sex marriages that day. When Jason was arrested, Rebecca Rotlzer took over and married an additional dozen same-sex couples. Local Clergy took over when injunctions were filed, prohibiting the elected officials from performing additional ceremonies.
I watched the events live on CNN, I was so proud of Jason and Rebecca, I was so proud to be a Green. They showed every Democrat and every politician that there is a difference between saying you support something, and actually supporting something. For many people, that difference allowed their lives to change forever.
At that time Governor Eliot Spitzer was the New York State Attorney General and he chose to stand against Mayor Jason West. It was also Eliot Spitzer who decided same-sex marriages were against the New York State Constitution. Eliot Spitzer felt he was protecting the people of New York State by going after Mayor West. Two years later, Spitzer would secure the Pride Agenda endorsement and go on to win the gubernatorial election. Remember that name, he'll run for President some day.
Contrary to media spin and the Democratic Party, same-sex marriages are not forbidden in the New York State Constitution. However, you do need a valid marriage license and the State only prints applications with a male and a female entry. Eliot Spitzer isn't planning on changing the application.
A couple of years ago, a professor of mine was doing research on reed bed technology and he found an article about Jason, Rebecca and Julia prior to their election. The article listed four things they wanted to do.
1. Renewable Energy on Village Buildings.
2. Affordable Housing in the Village.
3. Reed Bed Sewage Treatment.
4. Support Same-Sex Couples in the right to Marriage.
I was surprised to see number four in the article, I didn't know they campaigned on that. They didn't think they where empowered to marry same-sex couples when they where elected, but they did support equal rights.
My professor read the article out load and said "Wow, imagine if they actually did all of that".
I smiled and said "They did."
How many elected officials have you seen make good on their top four campaign pledges in their first two years in office? How many elected officials have made campaign pledges that where this ambitious?
Jason and Rebecca showed the people that there is an alternative solution. Democrats consistently say they support the issues of the people, while making the claim that they are not empowered to really make change happen. Politicians always say they are fighting for the people, but they never look like they have really been fighting for anything. In New Paltz, a few committed people changed the world.
The Democrats don't want the people to know that change is attainable. They don't want people to know that they really do have the power to change their community. The success of Jason West threatens the power structure enjoyed by the Democrats. Mayor West is breaking up a monopoly in New York.
Rebecca is now a Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States, and is finishing up her term as a Village Trustee. Neither Julia nor Rebecca are running for re-election. No other Greens within the small Village felt they could serve, leaving Jason West along to run with two non-Green running mates.
The Democrats are running two party insiders, two members of that old guard.
One is an elected official looking to change job titles to get Jason West
out of office; the other, an appointed government official. Jason has championed the issues of the people and won the support of the Villagers. The Democrats were left with only one strategy: co-opt Jason's platform and claim that the Democrats also support the issues of the people, just like Eliot Spitzer.
Jason has altered the political landscape of his Village that much.
We now have a situation where someone has proven to champion and enact this platform and is running for re-election. His opponent has not enacted or championed these efforts in the past but is now taking credit for the change and promising more change. Jason's opponent is also using big money and big donations to bring this false packaging to newer students who where not around for the last 4 years.
Jason's opponent even has a volunteer button on his website that is labeled "Real Greens Click Here."
Election Day is May 1st. Jason needs your help. The New Paltz Greens can not compete with big money politics. Jason needs money to host events and more canvassing materials. Jason needs help getting his website up and running and could use a professional team working on this aspect. Jason needs to print more materials for his campus voter registration drive. Jason needs to host meetings to draw endorsements from additional Labor and LGBT groups. Jason needs prominent Greens and activists to write endorsements and to visit New Paltz this month to help rally support. Please consider sending in a check and hosting a Jason West house party to raise funds from your local Greens (don't forget Jason's book "Dare to Hope" is available on GP.org and
it makes a great tool for house parties).
Checks can be sent to
"Friends of Jason West,
c/o Warren T. Shanahan,
136 North Chestnut Street, Apt. 8D,
New Paltz, NY 12561
Your donations are greatly appreciated. Please help New Paltz keep Mayor Jason West, please help the Green Party keep hope.
Posted by Jason Nabewaniec