The Green Party seems to be making an impact in Maine’s largest city, Portland. Currently, the Green Party holds four of the nine seats on the Portland School Committee, having ousted two Republicans in the November 2005 election cycle. These victories are due in part to the work of the two previous Green Party members on the committee, Ben Mieklejohn and Steven Spring.
In December of 2004, the duo authored a resolution to delay “the formal public ratification of [a] teacher union contract until the public had a chance to review it and comment…” according to School Reform News. They said that this resolution was created in order to generate “…revulsion over secret negotiations and ‘rubber stamping’ of contracts without public input….” It is state law in Maine for the School Board Members to open negotiations up to public scrutiny. However, this power usually goes unused and most work on such proposals is completed at closed-door executive sessions.
Although the resolution brought forth by the Greens was voted down by the group, it has had an impact on the political climate of Portland. School Reform News reported that “The Greens actions are sending shock waves through the Democratic Party, which has controlled nearly every school district in Maine…and has steadfastly stuck to the traditional ‘reform’ agenda of continually increasing school funding and raising teacher salaries.”
Green Party member Ben Mieklejohn commented that his work on the board is not about partisan politics, but rather, “It’s about the taxpayers.” This approach of fiscal responsibility and educational reform differs from the traditional view of this third party. “While Green Party members do tend to attract socialists, they also attract libertarians and have much in common with certain aspects of Republicanism, such as decentralizing, personal and social responsibility, community-based economics and small government”, says Mieklejohn in an interview.
Is it true that the Green Party is beginning to resemble a party of fiscal conservatives with liberal social views? Not according to Professor Jon Reisman from the University of Maine at Machias. As a longtime opponent of the Green Party’s political viewpoints, Reisman states, “Green Party members are essentially socialists who believe in the power of big government, just like liberals do.”
On a popular political blog, many conservatives have been outspoken about their frustrations with the politics in Portland. One member wrote, “The Greens may look more fiscally reasonable but you have to take their moon unit politics with it. Choosing between the D’s [Democrats] and G’s [Green Party] is like deciding to cut off your right thumb or your left. A path to sanity eludes me.” Many others write that they agree with some of the educational suggestions being brought forth by the Green Party members, but they are reluctant to provide their full support to the Green Party school board members. One blogger warns other concerned parents in Portland, “Those darn greens. You just can’t trust them.”
Rosemarie Capozzi is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.