Van Jones As Green Jobs Czar
by The Opportunity Agenda, Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 01:32:19 PM EDT
Brentin Mock at The American Prospect reports on the nomination of West Coast green jobs and urban revitalization advocate Van Jones to the White House position of Green Jobs Czar. Van Jones is the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Green For All. He is author of the New York Times Bestseller The Green Collar Economy.
Though Mock argues that Jones will face many hurdles, he also points out that the Oakland-based leader has long made the important connection between creating a green economy and developing opportunity for impoverished communities:
Championing relief for the vulnerable has been Jones' modus operandi all along. And while he fought for that cause mostly at the local level from 1996 until the founding of his national nonprofit Green for All in 2007, he's made plenty of important national connections along the way. One of his more notable is with the Apollo Alliance, formed after September 11, which brings together some of the best minds and most iron-fisted leadership from the sectors of labor, environmentalism, and government. So while Jones has no significant experience working inside government (and some wonder if he'd effect change stronger from the outside) his Apollo connections with, for one, Kathleen McGinty, former chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, let’s hope, have supplied him with wisdom on surviving Capitol Hill.
But Jones doesn't want to just survive, he wants to be the solution. What will make his task even harder is the expansion of the unemployed population to the tune of five million turned jobless in the last year and 12.5 million without work overall. Minority unemployment rates, meanwhile, have hit historic highs: the unemployment rate for black men is a hair shy of 15 percent, while the Hispanic unemployment rate overall is 10.9 percent. Jones' advocacy has always been about providing jobs for minorities as priority No. 1. But can Jones make the case that investing in America's neglected will solve the country's economic crisis?
It will indeed be a great challenge that faces Van Jones coming into this position. But as has been noted, equal opportunity is crucial to the success of the economic recovery. Without ensuring that opportunity is expanded for all, federal efforts at establishing a green economy will undoubtedly fall short of its potential to remake the American economic and environmental landscape.
Read more at The Opportunity Agenda's blog.