By Rebecca Bowe
At a March 30 event hosted by Change SF, representatives from Green for All, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and other grassroots organizations opened up a dialogue about green jobs and federal stimulus spending with District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and Mayor Gavin Newsom’s director of climate protection initiatives, Wade Crowfoot.
Participants spoke about projects they’re engaged in that are aimed at promoting environmental justice, green-jobs training and environmental education, and voiced support for programs that can boost prospects for disadvantaged workers by preparing them for jobs in the green sector. Supervisor Maxwell, a panelist, praised the audience for their work, saying, “It makes me feel like I’m not out of my mind when I’m asking, who are we stimulating with the stimulus package?”
At this stage of the game, Maxwell’s question has yet to be answered with any real clarity. Crowfoot noted that as part of the economic-recovery package, San Francisco is slated to receive some $7.7 million from a U.S. Department of Energy community block grant for energy efficiency and conservation purposes. Additionally, the city will receive some $1.5 million as part of a federal weatherization assistance program, he said, which seeks to curb the energy consumption of low-income residences. Crowfoot threw out some thoughts on how the funding might be used -- including energy retrofits on city buildings, initiating a program to replace inefficient boilers, and working alongside existing community-based programs -- but on the whole the outlook was vague, as he characterized these suggestions as still being “in the universe of interesting ideas.” Applications for specific project funding are due in late April, he noted. We tried calling a few times today to get more details, but haven't heard back yet.
The California Green Stimulus Coalition, an alliance of dozens of environmental organizations from throughout the state, is organizing to influence the dialogue in Sacramento regarding stimulus money for green programs. “A couple of years ago, we were just trying to beat the drum and convince people that green jobs and a green economy … was a good idea,” noted Coalition member Ian Kim, with the Ella Baker Center, who was also a panelist. Today, he said, the green-economy message is getting through, as evidenced by Green for All founder Van Jones’ appointment as special advisor for green jobs at the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.
The coalition is pushing hard for government transparency, and they’ve put out an ideal scenario for how stimulus-dollars spending would play out: “Federal, state, and local officials must uphold the highest standards of transparency and accountability in decision-making about stimulus funds. Each entity receiving funds (sub-contracts as well as direct contracts) should report on jobs created, wage and benefit levels, work hours performed and data related to the hiring and training of target populations.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if they got their way?