Press Releases

Greens mark founder John Rensenbrink's passing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 4, 2022


MAINE--It is with great sadness that the Maine Green Independent Party marks the passing of John Rensenbrink, of Topsham, who died at the age of 93 on Saturday, July 30th. Rensenbrink co-founded both the Maine Green Independent Party and the Green Party of the United States

"John was our Northern Star," said Green Independent Party Co-Chair Fred McCann. "Not only did he revolutionize third-party politics in the United States, he also showed us how to recontextualize our views of ourselves outside conventional structures of politics and economics."

Rensenbrink was born in 1928 in rural Minnesota to his parents Effie and John. After the death of his father in 1943, John, aged 15, managed his family’s farm with the help of his brother. A few years later, he left home to attend Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science. An insatiable scholar, he subsequently attained a master’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Rensenbrink moved to Maine in 1961 where he taught philosophy and history at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. In 1983, he spent six months in Poland with his wife Carla and three daughters Kathryn, Margaret and Elizabeth, where he worked as a research professor at the Marie Sklodowska University in Lublin.

While in Europe, Rensenbrink heard that a new political party, the Green Party, had won seats in the German Parliament. After his friend Alan Philbrook attended Canada’s first-ever Green Party meeting later in the year, the two held a meeting on January 8th, 1984 to form a Maine Green Party – the first Green state-level political party in the United States.

Rensenbrink served as the campaign manager for the gubernatorial campaigns of Jonathan Carter in 1994 and Pat LaMarche in 1998. After Carter's 1994 campaign, the Maine Green Party became a qualified political party with access to Maine's ballot. At a state convention, Rensenbrink was elected as the party's first co-chair, alongside Nancy Allen of Brooksville.

"He was a giant of Green Party commitment," said Allen.

In 1996, Rensenbrink ran for U.S. Senate, garnering four percent of the vote against Susan Collins. His campaign slogans, "Don't Eat the Seed Corn" and "Proceed on Green Only" (depicting a traffic light) conveyed a progressive urgency for sustainability.

Tom Fusco, who replaced Rensenbrink as party co-chair in 1996, after Rensenbrink stepped down to run for Senate, said Rensenbrink believed in empowering people over corporations.

"John was one of those rare people who saw the big picture," said Fusco. "He saw politics as a means to making things better not as the cause of the end. He knew that real power does not lie with politicians or corporations, it belongs to the people."

Pat LaMarche, who ran for governor in 1998 and 2006 and vice president in 2006, in a tribute she posted on Facebook, said she first met Rensenbrink when she was a radio journalist who interviewed him during his 1996 Senate run.

"I barely looked up when he walked into our studio - until he spoke," LaMarche posted. "I could not believe my ears. He soft-spokenly explained that America was entitled to a justice based government of our own making - with representation at the highest levels that respected civil rights, economic justice and ecological wisdom... Rensenbrink cared about people and he believed in their ability to self-govern without corporate influence."

In 1996, the Maine Green Party lost qualified party status after Ralph Nader failed to acquire at least 5 percent of the vote for president. After LaMarche's 1998 gubernatorial candidacy, the party regained qualified status, but this time as the Maine Green Independent Party, due to changes in state law in how parties are named when formed by a candidate that acquires the requisite votes.

The Green Independent Party celebrates its 25th consecutive year as a qualified party in Maine next year.

Sam Pfeifle, an elected Green who is chair of the Gray-New Gloucester School Board, said he was inspired to join the Green Party after Rensenbrink's senatorial run and Nader's presidential campaign that same year.

"You read about people with a twinkle in their eye, but John was maybe the only one where I’ve seen it in person," said Pfeifle.

While Rensenbrink was an internationally recognized political activist, Rensenbrink often espoused the importance of involvement with local politics: "All politics is local politics."

Resnsenbrink's commitment to engaging in political activism at all levels, is a factor that later inspired Pfeifle to run for office himself.

"Just look at what he’d been able to do in conserving land and reforming government in his little town," Pfeifle said. "If this guy could have this much enthusiasm and joy after nearly 90 years on this earth and a lifetime of butting his head against corporate behemoths, surely I could muster up some hope and at least see what I could do on the local school board."

Rensenbrink's commitment to environmentalism and local politics was not confined to Green Party electoral activism.

The Cathance River Education Alliance, a not-for-profit group co-founded by Rensenbrink in 2000, posted a tribute to him on their Facebook page.

"John was a visionary and played an essential role in CREA’s creation and evolution," the group posted. "All that CREA does today is part of his legacy. His vision of using the Preserve to nurture appreciation for the natural world is realized in the shrieks of delight of our summer campers immersed in outdoor discovery, the 'Wows!' and 'Look at this!' of schoolchildren learning at the Preserve, the local elementary students experiencing robust science curricula, the engagement of people introduced to startling natural wonders on guided walks, and so much more."

In 2005, Rensenbrink wrote of the alliance, “We didn’t quite know exactly how to translate the idea into reality, but we did know that we wanted to make maximum use of the 230 acres along the wildest portion of the Cathance River in Topsham for environmental education purposes. Also, to help nurture an appreciation for and knowledge of this pristine area now known as the Cathance River Nature Preserve.”

In 2019, the year Rensenbrink turned 90, the alliance named a walking path at their center Rensenbrink Way in his honor.

Betsy Garrold, of Knox, who is running to be the state representative in House District 38, first met Rensenbrink in 2002, during her first run for the Legislature.

“He came to my house and sat at my kitchen table eating blueberry muffins with me and Jonathan Carter and some others," said Garrold. "He became one of my most cherished political mentors, gave me an autographed copy of 'Against All Odds,' made me laugh, made me cry, praised my ethics and pointed out my mistakes.”

In a blog post on Blogger, Maine Green activist Sam Smith, of Freeport, said Rensenbrink is the reason why Maine's party is arguably the most successful state Green Party in the nation.

"A few days before his passing, I happened to be examining in which states the Green Party had been most successful and found to my amazement that Maine had 32% of all the elected Green officials in the country, including a constable in one town and a sewer board member in mine," wrote Smith. "Thanks in no small part to the inclusive politics of Rensenbrink, Maine was the first state with a Green Party, not to mention giving me one of my favorite role models."

Jon Olsen, of Jefferson, who chaired the party in 2018, said Rensenbrink "lived an exemplary life of service, honor, wisdom and compassion--all of which are sorely needed in these times in which we live. To use an ecological analogy, while the rest of us are pines, oaks, maples and birches, he was our sequoia."

The Maine Green Independent Party posted on Monday, "Those who know John know how beautiful his soul is. His will and determination guided our party from creation to present, and we are forever honored to have been so closely connected with the history John made."

Rensenbrink was inducted into the Maine Green Independent Party Hall of Fame in 2019 and served as the party's senior advisor at the time of his passing, a role he had for nearly two decades.

"The Green Independent Party, on behalf of its members, extends eternal gratitude to Rensenbrink for a lifetime of service in connecting people with nature, and connecting politics with both people and nature," said Lyn Maravell, co-chair of the party. "Our heartfelt sympathies and admiration go out to the family of this incredible man."

Rensenbrink authored four books on Green politics and was a frequent contributor to numerous periodicals, including Green Horizon Magazine, which he co-founded and edited.

In a 2015 issue of Green Horizon Magazine, Rensenbrink wrote, "Life is open, thought is open. In that awareness and with willing and purposeful intent, we can and do change the world."


Greens endorse yes vote on question 3

October 20, 2021

 

AUGUSTA, MAINE -- The Maine Green Independent Party has endorsed referendum question 3, encouraging voters to cast a yes vote in the November 3rd election.

Question 3 asks, "Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?"

If approved by voters, the Maine State Constitution will be amended by the addition of this article: 

Right to food. All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds, and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.

“Re-localizing our food system and building our communities is the greatest insurance policy we can have against disruptions of every kind," said Betsy Garrold, a former co-chair of the party. "Be they economic, political, environmental or a global pandemic. Resilience is built into the DNA of the people of Maine. This amendment allows us to manifest that resilience by taking back local control of our food system.”

The Maine Green Independent Party support the amendment because it aligns with the party's "Ten Key Values," which include grassroots democracy, decentralization, community-based economics and sustainability.   

"All of these core values of the party are enhanced and protected when the people are given more rights and control over their own life and choices," said Garrold.

 

Green Independent Party opens primary election to all Maine voters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2021

Green Independent Party opens primary election to all Maine voters

MAINE--Members of the Green Independent Party decided unanimously to allow all Maine voters to participate in its 2022 primary election. The vote, taken at the party's annual convention marks the first time a qualified political party in Maine has done so.

Since 2016, the Greens have allowed unenrolled (often referred to as independent) voters to participate in its primaries. The party's bylaws require a decision in every odd-numbered year on which voters may vote in its primary the following year.

The party's electoral committee chair, Justin Beth, celebrated the unanimous decision. “Most Mainers, including many state legislators, are currently unaware that Maine’s qualified parties may decide on their own who is eligible to participate in their primaries”, he said.

“Our party's decision shows we are committed to grassroots democracy. We trust the input of all registered voters on who should be our candidates and would ask why have the Democratic and Republican parties not taken this step themselves?"

According to Maine statute, each political party may notify the secretary of state of the enrollment qualifications to vote in that party's primary. If no notification is received by February 1, then only that party's members may vote in that primary.

Ben Meiklejohn, who chaired the party's convention said a unanimous vote is a strong indication of members' support.

"This is really important to Greens. We've partially opened our primaries before, but to decide in unison that it's time to open it the whole way, that's significant," he said.

Party Co-Chair Lyn Maravell said the decision is important to Maine's voters. “It’s all about letting the people decide and giving people more choice in who they can vote for.”

Jake Kulaw, also the party's co-chair, said “It’s not rocket science, we want to give people a chance to have their say in our elections. It's not hard to have open primaries. We’re just giving Maine voters what they’ve been asking for.”

Greens endorse citizens initiative on health care

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Greens endorse citizens initiative on health care

April 12, 2021

AUGUSTA--The Maine Green Independent Party endorses a citizens initiative to establish a publicly funded health care system for all Maine residents.
The party's state committee voted unanimously to support the initiative, which was launched several months ago by Maine Health Care Action, a campaign group organized by Maine AllCare.
The party will promote the petition campaign and encourage members to collect signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
If 63,000 signatures are submitted to the secretary of state by December, the referendum will be on the ballot in a 2022 election.
The Maine Green Independent Party platform calls for a "health care system with comprehensive healthcare for all, including vision, hearing, mental and dental health, regardless of ability to pay."
The party has supported universal health care coverage in its platform every year since approving its first platform as a qualified Maine political party in 1996.
In 2006, Green Independent nominee for governor, Pat LaMarche, made universal health care a cornerstone of her policy proposals, arguing that it would become an engine for the state's economy.
The party plans to rally its membership to help get the required signatures to place the referendum on the ballot.
For more information, visit the party's website at www.mainegreens.org

Greens oppose trans sports ban

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

March 30, 2021

 

Greens oppose trans sports ban

 

MAINE--The Maine Green Independent Party opposes LD 926, a bill that would exclude transgender women from participating in interscholastic sport in all Maine public

schools and universities, including intramural sports.

"When we tell transgender girls and women that they can’t play girls sports, it sends the message that they don’t belong," said Jake Kulaw, co-chair of the party. "This bill violates the Green values of social justice, equal opportunity and respect for diversity."

The bill mirrors efforts in other states to ban trans girls from participating in school sports.

"This bill puts the humanity of transgender people up for public debate," Kulaw said. "This is an attack on the very existence of transgender girls and women."

Kulaw said laws targeting transgender girls violate the US constitution and Title IX, and override sport governing bodies.

Lyn Maravell, also co-chair of the party, said the bill attempts to politicize transgender people’s lives.

"Maine transgender youth should not be used to advance hatred, fear and bigotry," she said. "This bill is bad for all Mainers."

In 2014 Maine’s Supreme Court affirmed the right to equal educational access for transgender girls in schools.

"The Green Independent Party stands in solidarity will the transgender community and will not support a bill that is harmful to any person, especially trans youth," said Maravell. "An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us.

 
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