18

Plenty of frustration at Lee-Pelosi town hall

I’ll be filing a more complete story tomorrow on the “Speak Out for Good Jobs Now!” town hall meeting Rep. Barbara Lee hosted tonight in Oakland, but for now, here’s a taste…

This was by no means a straight up Democratic pep rally. Other than the one conservative standing outside (an older white man with signs saying “Democrats kill jobs” and “Democrats love abortion, sodomy, socialism”), the critics were Democrats themselves, and the target of their ire was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

“Sellout!” somebody shouted just after Pelosi began addressing the crowd of about 900 in Acts Full Gospel Church of God in Christ on 66th Avenue. Her speech about the need for job creation was often punctuated by shouts of “Tax the rich!” and while her castigation of House Republicans – for trying to gut the National Labor Relations Board, for delaying the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and so on – drew some cheers, the critics remained focused.

When she brought up the issue of the recent deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling while cutting the budget, someone angrily shouted out, “Why did you vote for it?”

“Because default is worse,” Pelosi replied, and the deal at least protected Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

In segueing to the audience’s statements – which were recorded to be considered for entry into the Congressional Record, Green for All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins insisted the evening’s story “will not be about the two people in the back who are angry at Leader Pelosi; tonight the story will be about jobs.”

But the handful of Lyndon Larouche followers at the rear (holding signs calling for the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act) were the least of Pelosi’s worries. The frustration was palpable throughout; when the audience comments were paused to watch a video of similar statements made at other town halls across the nation, one young woman paused from stalking toward the door to shout, “We could’ve been speaking now, but they made us watch an ad!”

Tomorrow’s story will feature the tales of unemployment and, in many cases, desperation shared by audience members. Toward the end, however, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., summed up much of what had been said: “Democrats need to act like Democrats in Congress … Boldness has to be part of the agenda.”

After the meeting concluded, as dozens of people who had lined up in a vain attempt to get to a microphone turned instead to video cameras to record their statements, Lee said she wasn’t surprised by the frustration in the room.

“No one thought this was going to be a love-in,” she said. “We wanted to hear the truth, and that’s what we heard.”

5

A few upcoming political events

Pete StarkRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is holding two town meetings this Saturday, Jan. 22, so constituents can “ask questions about important national issues. Likely topics include the agenda for the new Congress, Republican attempts to repeal the health reform law, and job creation efforts.” The meetings will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Fremont Senior Center, 40086 Paseo Padre Parkway, and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at San Leandro City Hall, 835 E. 14th St.

Daniel BorensteinBay Area News Group-East Bay’s very own columnist and editorial writer Daniel Borenstein will join Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, former Assemblyman and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research lecturer Joe Nation and SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez for a Commonwealth Club of California discussion on “The True Cost of Public Pensions: Reform or Bust?” at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. “California’s financial situation is in shambles, and some pundits have identified the states public-employee pension obligation as a central part of the problem,” the club says. “But what is the true cost of pensions to the states structural deficit? Nineteen states reformed their public pension benefits in 2010.California has the largest pension system in the nation; is it now time for our state to reform our program too?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will headline a Commonwealth Club of California panel discussion on “The Obama Effect: Where Does the African American Community Stand Now?” at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7 in the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Hall, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Also participating will be Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and ColorOfChange.org cofounder and Executive Director James Rucker. “The panel will discuss the effects the election and new president have had on the black community,” the club says. “Has Obama landed the final blow needed to break the glass ceiling? Or has electing the first African-American president during one of the worst times in our country’s history created an unfortunate association that will become more of a hindrance than a help to the African American community?” Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

John GaramendiRep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will host his annual crab feed – a fundraiser for his Garamendi for Congress committee – with guest speaker Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 in the Antioch Community Center, 4703 Lone Tree Way. Tickets are $45 per person, with more expensive sponsorships available, and are available online.

Jerry McNerneyAnd Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is accepting applications for college and post-graduate internships in his Stockton and Pleasanton offices: “I encourage students who are interested in public service and learning about a congressional office to apply for an internship in one of my offices. It is an excellent way to gain professional experience and to serve our community.” High school students will be considered on a case-by-case basis. To apply, mail or fax a cover letter and resume either to the Stockton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 2222 Grand Canal Blvd. #7, Stockton, CA 95207 (fax: 209-476-8587) or to the Pleasanton office, attn: Internship Coordinator, 5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd. #175, Pleasanton, CA 94588 (fax: 925-737-0734).

6

Van Jones receives new gig, accolades

Van Jones – the Oakland social- and environmental-justice activist and author who went to Washington last year as President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar,” only to be let go in the face of conservative criticism – has joined a White House-friendly think tank in a similar capacity.

Jones, 41, rejoins the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow to lead its new Green Opportunity Initiative.

“We are thrilled that Van Jones is joining us to spearhead a ‘green opportunity’ agenda to develop the policies and strategies that will ensure the clean-energy future brings not just climate stability and energy security, but also broadly shared economic prosperity,” Kate Gordon, CAP’s Vice President for Energy Policy, said in a news release today.

Jones will work with CAP’s existing Energy Opportunity team to develop an agenda for expanding investment, innovation, and opportunity through clean energy and environmental restoration – especially for low-income and minority communities. That’s exactly what he was doing as founder of Oakland-based Green For All, as author of the 2008 New York Times bestseller “The Green Collar Economy;” and then from March through September 2009 as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

CAP President and CEO John Podesta called Jones “a pioneer in the effort to promote a clean, sustainable economy that works for all Americans. I’m proud that he’s coming back to CAP to focus on creating economic opportunity in distressed communities through the Green Opportunity Initiative and that he will be giving voice to those issues once again.”

Jones resigned his White House post after conservatives targeted him for past political activities including his 1990s association with a Marxist group and a public comment disparaging congressional Republicans.

In his first interview since his resignation, Jones told the Washington Post he has no “bitterness or anger” about what transpired last year. “The good thing about being an American is you’re free to think whatever you want, and you’re also free to change your mind. That’s my story. . . . God willing, I’ve got 10 or 20 years, 30 years, three decades more work to do. And it’s my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work.”

And in a column today on the Huffington Post, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Jealous – a former Alameda resident – wrote he’s proud to be presenting Jones with the NAACP President’s Award at the organization’s 41st Image Awards this Friday.

“Far from the divisive caricature painted by some cable news outlets, Van has been one of America’s most effective and inspiring bridge-builders,” Jealous wrote. “He has successfully brought together labor leaders, business executives, civil rights champions, students and environmentalists to find creative solutions to the ecological and economic crises.”

The Center for American Progress was launched in 2003 and has been supported since with funding from a pair of East Bay billionaire banking moguls. Herb and Marion Sandler made their fortune by building Oakland-based Golden West Financial Corp. — parent company of World Savings Bank — into one of the nation’s largest savings and loans, before selling it to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24.2 billion.

The think tank has had close ties to the Obama Administration from the get-go. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, went on leave from CAP for a while to serve as one of three co-chairs of Obama’s transition team. Several CAP fellows and trustees were appointed to Obama Administration posts, and CAP consistently has helped shape the message on Obama Administration initiatives including health care reform, economic stimulus and national security.

UPDATE @ 11:07 A.M.: Looks as if Jones also has been appointed distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

17

Local responses to Van Jones’ resignation

As conservatives continue their victory dance over Van Jones’ resignation, local progressives are sounding pretty steamed.

Rabbi Michael Lerner of Berkeley, co-chairman of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and editor of Tikkun magazine, published a column today calling Jones’ forced resignation “a huge defeat for the forces of sanity and humanity, and represents a deep failure of the Obama-ites to understand the nature of the challenge they face from an increasingly fascistic Right wing.”

The forced resignation of Van Jones demonstrates the lack of backbone of the Obama Administration.

Jones was a rare progressive appointment among the wide array of Wall Street sycophants and Inside-the-Beltway pragmatists who have misled Obama into a path that has caused him to lose his initial popularity and severely endanger his presidency.

The notion that Jones’ past could have a serious impact on the future of health care reform defies all plausibility–those who will oppose health care reform will do so just as strongly without Jones’ presence in the White House as they would have had he remained. The message being given by the Obama Administration is clear: if you on the Right critique us, we will pander to you and abandon our friends.

In conditions of expanding prosperity, this would create the possibility of a resurgence of McCarthyism throughout the society. in conditions of growing economic pain, this kind of mimicking of the worst behavior of the German middle-of-the-roaders during the Weimar Republic sets the stage for the possibility of a genuine home grown fascism in the U.S.

If, God forbid, that should happen, people will look back to the capitulations on health care, human rights, and many other policy areas of the Obama Administration, but will give equal importance to the abandonment of Van Jones and the signal it gives to the Right.

Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which Jones cofounded and directed for many years, issued a statement in his defense:

At this critical time in our nation’s history, the Ella Baker Center champions policies that lift people up and bring about renewed hope and optimism for all. We were outraged by the attacks that Van and his family have suffered. Those who have made it their mission to derail a clean, green, and just future for our country have denied the nation our most talented advocate in the fight against climate change and for rebuilding our economy.

“Smear campaigns designed to sabotage the movement for an equitable, green economy are attempts to distract people from what really matters: building a future that is green and just for everyone,” said Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “It’s our dream, shared by Van Jones and so many others, that this country once again becomes a beacon for the world by using innovation to simultaneously address both the economic and climate crises we face.”

Van Jones has been lauded as a modern day civil rights hero and champion of change. He has worked to bridge the gap between communities and across lines of race, class, and gender. For years, Van has helped lead the social and environmental justice movements with solution-oriented, market-based ideas that provide some of our most marginalized communities with effective tools to create lasting change in their lives — and for the greater good of their communities.

Under Van’s leadership, and continuing under the direction of Jakada Imani, the Ella Baker Center has led the charge to build California’s progression towards a green-collar economy that truly creates opportunity for all by fighting poverty and climate change at the same time. Through vibrant, cross-sector coalitions that bring together unions, green businesses, environmental organizations, social justice groups, and education and training institutions, we’ve helped craft cutting edge public policy solutions and pilot programs like the Oakland Green Jobs Corps that prove what’s possible. Our focus has always been — and will remain — providing solutions that lift people up rather than tearing them down. Solutions that unite, not divide. Our goal — and Van’s — is simple: save the planet and its people.

And Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who this year succeeded Jones as CEO of Oakland-based Green For All, used Jones’ ouster as a call to action:

While Van may have stepped down from his formal position, now is the time for all of us to step up. Thanks to Van and countless supporters like yourself, the foundation for change has been set. We must continue to strengthen it — to build a more secure, clean and equitable future for our nation.

Now is the time for an inclusive green economy. Now is the time for action.

We need climate legislation that includes access and opportunity for all Americans. And we need your help to ensure that these provisions are part of it and that the promise of a clean-energy economy is realized. (click here to take a stand for our future – and forward this to all your friends and help keep the momentum going).

In the face of disappointment, now is the time for renewed resolve for our common goals.

When Jones was appointed in March, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, had issued a statement expressing pleasure that “a constituent, friend and strong advocate for green jobs” had gotten the job.

“Van has been at the forefront of the green jobs movement and has shown us all the way to utilize green collar jobs as a pathway out of poverty. Were it not for Van, we would not have been able to establish the Green Job Corps in Oakland, which provides local Oakland residents with job training, support and work experience so that they can independently pursue careers in the new energy economy,” Lee said at the time. “His expertise and vision in the area of green jobs will be a wonderful addition to the White House CEQ.”

Lee’s office indicated today she had no comment on Jones’ ouster.

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also has praised Jones’ work in the past. Her office didn’t respond to requests for comment today.

1

Green for All CEO meets with Cabinet members

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins – who succeeded Van Jones as CEO of Oakland-based Green for All this year as Jones went to Washington to become President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar” – was in Washington herself today for a meeting with Obama Administration officials on making green jobs available to the widest possible cross-section of America.

Also in the meeting were Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson; Energy Under Secretary Kristina Johnnson; Hip Hop Caucus president Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.; and leaders of Green the Block.

A joint effort of Green For All and the Hip Hop Caucus, Green the Block is a new campaign to engagevulnerable communities in the transition to a 21st-century economy via education, legislative advocacy, private-sector development and youth activism.

“Green the Block is a movement to build a clean-energy economy where everyone has a chance to succeed,” said Ellis-Lamkins said in a White House news release. “That starts with making sure that those who are often left out and left behind – low-income people and communities of color – have a voice and a presence in this movement. These communities also need a fair share of the economic, social and environmental benefits this transition is creating.”

Said Yearwood: “Clean-energy investments will create more job opportunities than spending on fossil fuels, like oil, natural gas and coal. The building of a clean-energy economy in the United States can serve to create new pathways out of poverty for the 78 million people in this country who are presently poor or near poor.”

0

Oakland’s Van Jones testifies before Congress

Van Jones of Oakland, founder and president of Green for All, testified today before the House Education and Labor Committee during a hearing on how to renew America through national service and volunteerism:

“If we’re going to have a green economy in this country, and we have to — our scientists tell us that it’s imperative — we need to have a green economy that has no throw-away species, no throw-away resources, but also no throw-away young people, no throw-away neighborhoods. We need to make sure those communities that were left out of the last century’s pollution-based economy are locked in to the new clean and green economy. We need to make sure that the people who most need new work, new wealth, new health opportunities get that, and the best way to do that is to connect green service to green job training to green jobs. In conclusion, I want to say that this is the most fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible thing that you can do with the public dollars … because green dollars work overtime, they work double-time, they work triple-time.”

Timely, particularly given the thrust of President Obama’s speech last night.

Also testifying was recording artist Usher: