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GREENS PROVIDE ANOTHER CHOICE FOR WEARY VOTERS

You're tired of candidates who beat the hell out of each other. Weary of politicians taking credit for everything but the pyramids. Fed up with public officials who haven't had a creative thought since the last millennium.

You stay home on Election Day because you think nothing changes anyway. Too many candidates are tied to the money that props them up, afraid to do anything that ticks off the party boss.

You're weary of pulling the lever for the guy -- did somebody say Pitts vs. Franczyk? -- you dislike the least.

Well, you can't say there isn't a choice anymore.

The Green Party. Thanks to cultural icon Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis, you can find them Tuesday at a voting booth near you.

Last on the ballot line, first (presumably) in the hearts of disillusioned voters.

"People are looking for changes in who's running the show," said Andy Goldstein, Green candidate for an at-large seat on the Common Council.

The Greens, borne of the environmental movement, aren't beholden to big money from developers, contractors or unions. They don't get any.

You can't question their motives. While the rest of us were home watching TV, they raised hell when radioactive waste leaked at West Valley, then banged away until the city started recycling its garbage.

Although the environment spawned the movement, the Greens are more than trees and Birkenstocks. They want to extend Metro Rail, prop up city schools and raise workers' wages -- along with save the planet.

They don't have the money to buy your vote. Which is one reason to give it to them.

Goldstein is a bright guy who owns a printing company. He spent his last few months handing out leaflets, shaking hands and stretching the $6,000 he raised. The Greens are also running people for County Legislature, Common Council and county executive (that would be Mo Saladin, not yet a household name). They've also cross-endorsed Council candidates Charley Fisher, Sue McCartney and Mary Martino.

If any of them wins, the Greens get a voice.

The Greens are not exactly a monolith. There are six -- count 'em (forget that -- NAME 'em) -- six, registered Greens in Erie County.

"There's the potential to form a strong third party," said Goldstein. "One that's in there for the long run."

Actually, there's more than six of them. Because it's a new party, most Greens haven't yet been counted. A better gauge of strength is the 3,000 county voters who opted for the flawed but functional "Grandpa" last November.

Lewis came with the crust on (he called ex-Lt. Gov. Betsy Ross "a moron"), but he served his purpose: Running as the Green candidate for governor, he got more than 50,000 votes. That gave the Greens a ballot line.

The line -- and freedom to endorse non-Green candidates -- gives them muscle. The hope here is the Greens, unlike the Conservatives and Liberals, won't roll over and barter endorsements to major-party politicians for jobs.

The Greens aren't the only alternative. There's now eight parties on the state ballot, including Independence, Right to Life and Working Family. Plenty of choices for those who can't stomach the Democratic and Republican gorillas.

Joe Crangle, the former Democratic boss, has said minor parties "confuse" voters. If folks like Crangle had their way, there wouldn't be any choices. Major party gorillas strive mightily to close the door -- via arcane qualifying rules for candidates to a hostile Board of Elections -- to anybody they don't endorse. Any resemblance to democracy is purely coincidental.

"Voter turnout is so low," said Goldstein, "because the two (main parties) don't reflect the diversity of ideas out there."

The more, the merrier.

It's not confusion. It's democracy.

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