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Green Party of Philadelphia elects new leadership

8d80145ba96929cd541b78b332d8e8a9The Philadelphia Free Press reports the Green Party of Philadelphia “energized their local party by electing a new leadership” at the February 24 meeting.

Galen Jah Tyler, a former member-at-large of the City Committee, was elected chair. Tyler “is director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and a founding member of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign.”

Charles Sherrouse, elected as a new City Committee member-at-large, said, “My priority will be getting Greens involved with ballot access petitioning across the city, and extending our campaign outreach to campuses. The Green Party’s performance in the 2015 City Council race has earned us state recognition as a political party in Philadelphia, which can help boost our membership.”

Belinda Davis was elected recording secretary, while Hillary Kane “retained her seat as Treasurer, and Julian Robinson was re-elected as Member-at-Large.”

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Honkala’s PPEHRC builds Philadelphia tent city timed for papal visit

honkalaThe Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, co-founded by 2012 Green Party vice presidential nominee Cheri Honkala, has built a tent city in North Philadelphia, hoping to use Pope Francis’s visit to the city next week to raise awareness of homelessness in the city.

Honkala told KYW-TV, the CBS affiliate in the city, “We live in a city that hosts the Pope and conventions, but we can’t house our people.” She added, “We intend to be the welcoming committee for the Pope.”

There are currently six families in the encampment, according to Honkala, and the PPEHRC has raised about $500 for supplies. According to KYW, the Philadelphia Housing Authority will not issue keys or vouchers to the six families.

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2012 Green VP candidate Cheri Honkala challenges standardized testing in Philadelphia schools

2012 Green VP candidate and PPEHRC National Coordinator Cheri Honkala shared this photo on her Facebook page recently.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Green Party’s 2012 Vice Presidential candidate is taking a leading role in public school parents’ challenges to high stakes standardized testing.  Cheri Honkala, the parent of a child in the Philadelphia public school system, is also the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

In October, Honkala sent and published a letter to the principal of her son’s school requesting that he receive permission to opt-out of a number of state-mandated standardized tests.  She wrote that “standardized testing is against our religious and philosophical beliefs.”  Opting out of the tests would “allow [her son] to pursue other educational activities such as independent reading, book reports, research projects, volunteering in the library, etc.”  Several weeks later, Honkala and her organization followed up by participating in a forum on standardized testing at Philadelphia City Hall.

Recently, organizing and publicity surrounding high stakes testing in Philadelphia has started garnering more attention.  Last week, Honkala participated in a public forum on opting out of the tests, sharing the following image on her Facebook:

The “Test-In” was put together by a coalition of organizations in Philadelphia, including the Caucus of Working Educators, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Teacher Action Group, Philadelphia Student Union, Parents United for Public Education, & Action United.  The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign is also part of the coalition.

The Examiner gave some context to the meeting:

The Opt-Out movement is growing in Philadelphia. After parents and teachers took a stand against standardized testing at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, there has been an informational informal meeting about how parents can opt out hosted at the district-wide Home and School Association and several articles written about the movement itself. Superintendent Hite just recently gave a statement that the School District of Philadelphia will make sure that parents receive information about their opt out options. The national outcry against testing and the inherent flaws are not limited to Philadelphia or the surrounding suburbs, but are evident in New York City and Chicago too. The fear and intimidation surrounding testing can render parents, teachers, and administrators silent and powerless, but now there is another opportunity to be informed of the opt out process that is available in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in a story that Honkala linked on her Facebook profile, the Washington Post is reporting that in nearby New York state, 60,000 students opted out of similar testing in 2014.  For Honkala and PPEHRC, this is one more in a line of fights surrounding public education in Philadelphia.  Last year, Honkala was arrested in an act of civil disobedience defending her son’s elementary school from being one of dozens closed by the school district.

More recently, the Green Party of Philadelphia has nominated Kristin Combs for City Council.  Combs is competing against Republicans for one of two seats that must go to a minority party.  She is a public school teacher and advocate against the ongoing cuts to Philadelphia public schools.  Her education platform, which is central to her campaign, states that “every school aged child deserves access to a meaningful public education, and Philadelphia’s current climate does not allow for this.”  Stay tuned for more on Combs’s campaign.

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Interview with Glenn Davis, Philadelphia Green Party leader

p glenn davisFrom Philadelphia Weekly:

Glenn Davis is just about the only politician you’ll ever meet who doesn’t go out of his way to make sure you know right up front that’s he’s a military veteran. “I’m proud of that, but that doesn’t make me honorable,” he says, chatting over a bite at the McDonald’s at 56th and Vine. “I was a veteran of a foreign war—but I grew up. I realized I was fighting for corporations, and if I’m out in Iraq or wherever, who’s fighting for my family on the street?”

Now, after several post-military careers—including a stint doing maintenance at this very fast food chain—Davis is the chair of the oft-floundering Green Party of Philadelphia, and he’s running for state representative in the 198th District against Democrat Vanessa Lowery Brown. Brown made headlines earlier this year when she was named as one of five Philly pols to take a bribe in a state Attorney General’s office-conducted sting operation, and almost lost her Democratic primary because of it. PW talked with Davis about his campaign and what might lie in the Green Party’s future. Continue Reading

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2012 VP candidate Cheri Honkala takes leading role in movement against Philly school budget cuts

Photo Credit: Harvey Finkle

Photo Credit: Harvey Finkle

Cheri Honkala was the Green Party’s 2012 Vice Presidential candidate and is the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.  For years, she has been a part of the struggle to save Philadelphia’s public schools from budget cuts, privatization, staff cuts, and other assaults.  Her deep involvement in these efforts started when her son’s elementary school was slated for the cutting block, one of dozens of such schools in Philadelphia.

In the past month, Honkala has taken on a more public role, just as organizing and action against ongoing cuts has escalated and become more visible.  The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign issued a statement summarizing their activity on the issue in October, and why it is so important:

We live in a world where children are being denied the right to proper education. School funds are constantly being cut and now the School Reform Commission (SRC) in Philadelphia decided they are going to try and fix the school system by cutting health care benefits for teachers! What about all of the funds going towards the prison system and oil companies? This past month Shell Oil was provided a $1.7 billion tax break while $0 was allocated for textbooks. Teachers are being told it is their time to make sacrifices but they have been sacrificing all along with limited resources, over crowded classrooms and fulfilling extra roles such as counselor and nurse due to lack of funding for full time staff.On October 9th,  Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPHERC) stood with parents, students, and teachers to demand that Governor Corbett explain himself and provide full funding for our schools. They shut down the elevators, blocked our access to the Governor and kicked out the media. They even went as far as to arrest Cheri Honkala, National Coordinator of PPEHRC and parent of a student at Julia R. Masterman School who attempted to deliver a citizens arrest against the governor for crimes against education and our children. 
On October 15th, The Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a press conference in front of the headquarters of the School district of Philadelphia in response to the SRC’s decision. During this press conference, Cheri Honkala’s message was clear: “don’t mess with our babies’ education!”

The following day, October 16th, more than 1,000 teachers, parents, students, and community supporters gathered in front of the headquarters of the School district of Philadelphia to continue to protest against the SRC’s decision. During the protest, Cheri Honkala testified in front of the SRC to address the cancelation of teacher’s contracts along with 59 other speakers. 

They continue to cut back but we will continue to fight back! Our schools will be saved no matter how long we have to fight against this broken system! We are very proud of the students, teachers, parents, and community members that continue to protest alongside PPEHRC during these important demonstrations. There is no change without the people uniting together and demanding for it! The people united will never be divided and we will win!

Honkala’s arrest was covered by the Philadelphia City Paper (and a second time, after she got out of jail), Philly Metro, and a local education blog, among others.  Honkala also wrote about it on her new blog, including a pledge for people to support the movement.  Below is a video of Honkala speaking at the above-mentioned rally:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bs5baAinHw

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Jill Stein: A candidate goes to jail

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has written an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer about her experience of being arrested and sent to jail with running mate Cheri Honkala following a protest against unjust foreclosures. From the article:

When I decided to run for president of the United States, spending the night in a Philadelphia jail cell was not part of my strategy. But I and my running mate on the Green Party ticket, Cheri Honkala, found ourselves in handcuffs this month after we refused to leave the Philadelphia building housing the regional headquarters of the mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

We were there to support two women whose families faced unjust evictions by Fannie Mae, as well as the eight million other families who have faced foreclosure at the hands of Wall Street.

Read the full article at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Jill Stein announces Cheri Honkala as her choice for VP

CBS News is reporting, in an interview with her, that Green Party presumptive presidential nominee Jill Stein has announced her choice for the party’s vice presidential candidate, to be approved at this week’s convention in Baltimore.  Cheri Honkala is the Stein campaign’s choice, a poor people’s advocate based in Philadelphia and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.

There was some speculation that actress and comedian Roseanne Barr, who is also running for the Green Party’s presidential nomination, would be the vice presidential candidate.  However, Stein has opted instead for Honkala, saying in an announcement, “Compelled by her own experience as a homeless, single mom, Honkala has spent nearly three decades working directly alongside the poor to build the movement to end poverty, and has organized tens of thousands of people to take action via marches, demonstrations and tent cities.”

Honkala herself stated, “It’s immoral that children are hungry and homeless in the richest country in the world. It’s time for the 99% to stand united to serve our collective human needs instead of selfish, corporate greed. The Green Party is the only one standing up to Wall Street, and Jill Stein’s Green New Deal is the best plan for saving this sinking ship. I’m honored to fight beside her.”

For the time being, Honkala is also coordinating ballot access efforts for the Green Party of Pennsylvania, which is in the process of working to collect over 40,000 signatures by the end of July. Honkala joined the Green Party in 2011, when she ran for Sheriff of Philadelphia on a platform of turning the Sheriff’s office from the department that evicts people to a social service working to “keep families in their homes,” as well as establishing community land trusts so that people living near vacant and abandoned properties can control them.  Honkala ran for Sheriff after labor organizer Hugh Giordano reinvigorated the Green Party of Philadelphia with his strong run for state representative in 2010.  The campaign proposal of addressing blight and vacant lots is part of a Philadelphia-wide political effort to address vacant land in the city in recent years.  Honkala is also consistently involved in efforts to prevent individual families from losing their homes to foreclosure and other work ensuring the basic survival of some of the most economically oppressed in Philadelphia.  The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign also operates around the United States, and is part of various international poor peoples’ movements.

As mentioned earlier, Honkala has been an activist of one form or another, whether simply to ensure the survival of herself and her son in the Minnesota winter when she was homeless or organizing protests at the Republican National Convention in 2000, for decades.  Several documentaries have been made about her or her efforts, including “Poverty Outlaw,” and she was featured in the book The Myth of the Welfare Queen. Honkala has been named one of the 100 most powerful people in the region by Philadelphia magazine, as well as being named “Person of the Year” once by Philadelphia Weekly. Her son Mark Webber is an actor, director, and playwright who used his celebrity to help her campaign for Sheriff.  In that campaign, Cheri campaigned and organized in Philadelphia, as well as travelling the country to encourage progressives to leave the Democratic Party and encourage Greens to approach politics in a way that is more inclusive of and relevant to poor people.

press conference was held today to make the announcment, which has been posted on Jill Stein’s campaign website.

[Disclosure:  I was involved in Cheri Honkala’s campaign for Sheriff on many levels and this summer I have been part of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, working on a farm they are organizing in the neighborhood where Honkala lives.  I am also a member of the Green Party of PA, was active in Hugh Giordano’s campaign, and have been collecting signatures to get the Stein campaign on the ballot there.]

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Cheri Honkala, Green for Philadelphia Sheriff, interviewed on PressTV

Philadelphia Green Party Sheriff candidate Cheri Honkala was recently interviewed on PressTV. Here is an excerpt of the interview, which is available on PressTV as both video and text:

Philadelphia, where I live, was just named the poorest city in the country. And we have children that go to bed every day in our country that are hungry. We have over 3 million homeless people. And like I said earlier, every 7 seconds a family is losing their home now in this country.

There is no reason for that; we have the ability to provide people with the healthcare. We have the ability to provide everybody with all the necessities of life. We just have a serious problem, we have one political party in this country and that represents corporate America. We don’t have a political system that represents the people, and that is the only reason that I have decided to run for Sheriff.

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Campaign news and more endorsements for Green Party candidates running in the Nov. 8, 2011 general election

From the Green Party of the United States:

WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party candidates have continued to receive endorsements in local races across the US.

59 Greens will be on ballots in the November 8, 2011 general election. Ten Greens have been elected to public office in elections held earlier this year, out of 34 candidates who competed.

Green candidates in St. Paul, Minnesota, received several endorsements. For the first time, St. Paul will use Ranked Choice Voting (also called Instant Runofff Voting) in City Council elections, which will increase the chances of a Green election victory.

TakeAction Minnesota, a progressive grassroots coalition, has endorsed Jim Ivey for Ward 2 (http://iveyforsaintpaul.org) and Bee Kevin Xiong (http://xiongforsaintpaul.org) for Ward 6 in City Council races.
http://www.takeactionminnesota.org/_assets/document/St._Paul_City_Council_Endorsements.pdf
http://iveyforsaintpaul.org/news/jim-ivey-endorsed-takeaction-mn

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 has also endorsed Mr. Ivey and Mr. Xiong.
http://www.ufcw789.org/newsletter/vol2issue5.pdf
http://iveyforsaintpaul.org/news/united-food-and-commercial-workers-endorse-jim Continue Reading

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Profile of Brian Rudnick, Green for Philadelphia City Council

Newsworks recently published an article about Brian Rudnick, a Green Party member who is running for Philadelphia City Council in the 8th District:

It’s 4:30 p.m., and Brian Rudnick’s campaign office swarms with staffers. About 15 field workers, many area college students, criss-cross the cozy, second-floor space on the 7100 block of Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy, chatting and grabbing a quick bite before hitting the street to canvass.

With weeks to go until Philadelphia’s general election,  the independent candidate for City Council has assembled a small army to help spread the word that the Eighth District ballot box will feature two hopefuls, a choice, in 2011.

Read the full article at Newsworks.