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Why There’s No Green Party In Mendocino County [2000]

(…and never would be…)

Greg Krouse was appointed emergency vibes-watcher because someone had to tell Ike he was being “too negative.” 

Ike leaned forward, raised his voice and called out a river of words in a thick German accent. I had stopped paying attention to him. He had been childish and intrusive from the beginning of the Monday night’s Mendocino Green Party Meeting in Boonville and finally Krouse had to let him know that, Ike, man, your vibes — they’re like way over the edge, OK?

Dan Hamburg, the Northcoast’s former Congressman turned Green, lead the meeting. Hamburg rubbed his forehead and sighed. A lot. All 27 people sat in a large circle in the empty dining room at Lauren’s restaurant and looked at Hamburg, waiting for him to continue. A few hands went up. Hamburg started pointing and verbally designating a speaker’s order or, as the Greens call it, “a stack.” He called out names, “first Bruce, then Patricia, Liz and C.J.”

There was a loud groan. It was Ike. He jerked his arm above his head in short, angry bursts.

“Yes, Ike, you too,” said Hamburg, rolling his eyes.

The deck was thus stacked. All people called upon spoke in the order facilitator Hamburg had stacked them. At Mendocino Green Party meetings everyone sits in a circle and everyone raises their hands. It sounds fair: everyone equal, everyone included and a vibes-watcher to keep the peace.

So why did I feel like I was in the resource room at a junior high school rather than at an adult political meeting?

First of all, it was unclear what the purpose of the meeting really was. Some said it was a regular Mendo Green Party meeting, while others claimed it was a meeting to discuss forming a local Anderson Valley group to work specifically on the Nader campaign for President. Some attendees wanted only to work on the Personal Use of Marijuana Initiative (PUMI). Finally, some said the meeting was an informational session to educate undecided folks on what it means to be Green. It turned out everyone was there for a different reason. 

An argument broke out. Hands shot up and Hamburg resumed stacking. I put my pen down and watched.

Green Party meetings in Mendocino are supposed to rely on consensus for reaching any kind of decision. No one could agree on what the purpose of the meeting was, so someone changed the subject.

The meeting had begun with a detailed agenda that included time allotments for each discussion item. Hamburg did his best to stick with the schedule, but as hours passed the gathering slipped further and further into chaos.

Hamburg exhausted his supply of peace and good vibes; he tried to keep the discussion moving along by summarizing and making suggestions aimed at efficiently getting the meeting headed in a productive direction. But during one of Hamburg’s patient mini-speeches a man named Richard Johnson [aka “the One True Green”] suddenly shot both his arms up into the air.

Hamburg stopped and paused for a moment. “Did you make a touchdown, Richard? Is that what you’re doing over there?”

“No, I wanted to let you know that your time is up on this issue,” Johnson said.

If I had to vote for the most ludicrous person in attendance, it would be a tie between Ike and Richard Johnson. 

At one point Johnson announced that six spaces were open on the Green Party county council. Johnson mentioned that anyone interested in running for council had better be prepared to work with him. He said that might not be easy, that he is currently in the middle of his term as a council member, and most other Mendo Greens have expressed severe antagonistic feelings toward him. 

Johnson is a wild-eyed Green Party enthusiast and private businessman who seems to function as a one-person anti-advertisement for progressive politics. He carried on about all the money he has raised for the party. Someone confronted him about apparent math discrepancies and wanted to know how much of the money he collected for the Greens went to his personal business. Johnson became defensive and raised his voice and said, “I can’t do that math for you right now.”

Later Johnson nominated himself for Green Party chairman and suggested everyone vote at the next meeting. Hands went up. Hamburg stacked. A lengthy argument followed.

Next came gridlock via a discussion about finances. No one could agree on how or where to donate money. Several people wanted to save money. One smart man pointed out that the election is just around the corner and the Greens need to be working, donating funds, whatever it takes to help the campaign. 

“What’s with this fiscal conservatism?” he asked. “We can raise more money later.”

Despite all the confusion, there were some worthwhile announcements made during the meeting.

A Nader campaign headquarters is opening up in Fort Bragg at 250 N. Main Street. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for September 16 starting at 2 p.m.

A representative from the Alliance for Democracy said she has raised money, signed up Green voters, and prepared tabling kits for anyone who wants to volunteer. Patricia Kovner of Laytonville has raised more than $1,300 for the Green Party and also has worked hour after hour to sign up Green voters and spread the good Nader news. Greg Krouse, the impromptu vibes-watcher, is hard at work to protest pesticide abuse in vineyards and backyard spraying, and called for volunteers to help him out. The meeting attracted several intelligent and devoted Greens, but together they seemed unable to muster enough critical mass to create coherent discussion. 

The man seated next to me was a registered Democrat who had driven to the Boonville meeting from Point Arena to learn about the Green Party. He had heard it was to be an informational session. “That’s O.K., though, I see what it’s like now,” he said with a short laugh. 

He had moved out to the sidewalk, looking exhausted, when I finally burst free of the place. It was 9:30 p.m. and the meeting still raged inside. Three hours of stacking and vibes-watching had taken a toll on both of us. I just hope that he hasn’t been scared off permanently. A committed Green myself, I think I might enjoy a trip to the dentist for some novocaine-free tooth extractions before enduring another bout with Richard and Ike. 

One Comment

  1. izzy February 20, 2024

    One last feeble grasp at democracy, and that was almost a quarter century ago. Now we have the entrenched duopoly, a nasty but compelling sideshow sliding towards civil disorder, while the real powers-that-be foment chaos at home and abroad. Just look at this year’s prospective choices.
    “Exciting times”, as they say.

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