Keeping It Green in L.A. County
by Danielle Mead
Throughout history, progress has been born of conflict. But endless conflict can spawn the destructive power of a cyclone, feeding upon itself until all forward momentum has been lost. Since March, a storm has been brewing in Los Angeles County, and at its eye, the Green Party County Council.
I joined the Green Party because I was tired of the partisan-for-partisan-sake attitude of the two major parties. The petty squabbling. The name-calling. The tit-for-tat demands for baseless investigations. The endless votes along party lines (lest the public realize the other side might have a good idea every now and then). But the Green Party was different. They not only shared my values, they put values first. Finally, I would no longer be ashamed of my elected leaders!
Then I attended the first meeting of the newly elected County Council.
The Council as a group may have been new, but the members themselves were seasoned players in the Green Party. There were histories between many of the council members, and past anger and bitterness still festered. Most recently, the whereabouts of an anonymous donation to the LA County Greens, and one Council member?s refusal to account for his actions concerning said donation, had created an impasse between two factions within the Council. With all attempts at mediation and resolution derailed, Council meetings deteriorated into three-hour blocks of bickering, one-upping and filibustering, with neither side willing to concede on any issue. Ongoing standoffs have seemingly become preferable to progress that might come at the expense of either faction?s absolute righteousness and control. Even approving the previous meeting?s minutes has become contentious.
This was the conduct I had witnessed by the Democrats and Republicans, the behavior that had driven me from association with the major parties. But the Greens are supposed to be an alternative to the two major parties. What happened?
Former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskj÷ld once said, ?We have seen how, out of present-day conflicts and the underlying tensions, has grown a widespread state of fear and frustration, of distrust and desperation. This is in itself a source of evil. It maintains an atmosphere in which unbalanced reactions may suddenly release the explosive power of the forces which we have to master.? Instead of embracing their common values and goals, members of the Council have become consumed by their differences. A relentless determination to discipline ?un-Green? actions and behavior has only resulted in decidedly ?un-Green? behavior by the council members themselves. In short, the antagonism and distrust plaguing the Council has not only become an obstacle to its organizational objectives, it has all but displaced the Green values on which the Council, and the party itself, was founded.
Anyone who has ever worn glasses knows that we are often unaware how clouded our vision has become until we clean our lenses. And like physical sight, the mind?s eye sometimes becomes so polluted with anger and negativity that our ability to see what truly matters is obscured. Members of the LA County Council, clinging to animosities of the past, have become paralyzed in the present and blind to the future they were elected to provide those they serve: the largest constituency of registered Greens in the nation, who go to sleep every night believing that their elected Green leaders uphold a higher standard. Though motions to censure, calls for the removal of council members, and inflammatory press releases may satisfy an appetite for justice today, they can only guarantee an erosion of the Council?s effectiveness tomorrow. Yes, unethical behavior must not be tolerated, especially in a values-based organization such as the Green Party. Nevertheless, there comes a time when progress must take precedence over procedure, when we choose to set our sights on what could be, rather than what has been.
As Hammarskj÷ld noted, ?Conflicts in human life are often never resolved, but simply outgrown.? It is high time for the LA County Council to outgrow its internal conflicts and embrace anew the values that brought the Greens together.
> Green Focus Home
> Subscribe to Green Focus