the (new) american worker

Gillibrand on Green Jobs: Good Ideas, But Still Too Political
March 9, 2010, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

If this doesn’t capture the political culture surrounding federal efforts to stimulate green job creation…

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has all the right ideas on green job creation - but is still too political to acknowledge publicly a speaking engagement yesterday with Van Jones, Obama's former "green jobs" czar.

It started with a simple Google search. I was wondering whatever happened to Van Jones, the energetic “green jobs” czar that resigned from the Obama administration last fall amid criticism of his unfortunate association with 9/11 conspiracy groups. Less controversially, Jones also released a book last year, “Green Collar Economy,” that detailed the labor opportunities of a green tech renaissance.

I found two things in my search – one, Jones actually made a recent “comeback,” accepting both a teaching position at Princeton University and a fellowship at the Center for American Progress late last month. Second, I found an article by HuffPo business reporter Shahien Nasiripour, detailing Jones’s appearance just yesterday with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), at a conference on green job creation. Nasiripour reports Gillibrand’s statements included a branding of green jobs as “the greatest market opportunity of our generation,” and a call upon President Obama for a “shoot-for-the-moon” speech to rally greenies and skeptics alike on the pressing need for job creation in a new energy economy. It is a great piece – for two reasons. First, it captures the heady statements of a “green” Senator challenging the political status quo. Second, Nasiripour is just about the only one to report that these statements even occurred. Despite comparing the urgency of creating a green workforce to putting a man on the moon, there is absolutely no mention of Gillibrand’s speech on either her federal or electoral sites (Gillibrand is up for election this year, her first public election since NY Governor David Paterson appointed her to Hilary Clinton’s former seat last year.)

I found all this pretty odd. It’s not as if Gillibrand has been shy about the need to provide out-of-work Americans with new opportunities in cleantech and energy. Last January, she joined fellow New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to announce an $8 million federal grant to Rochester, NY-based PathStone Corporation. According to a release on her own site, “low income workers will be taught the skills required in high growth industries, including energy efficiency and renewable energy,” as a result of this grant. So why get all shy about her energetic statements at yesterday’s conference?

Unfortunately, I think the answer here is purely political. Another quick Google search shows Gillibrand caught some flak last month, from a potential Republican opponent, for committing to a speaking engagement alongside Jones, a man Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck has previously decried as a “communist.” Sigh. I think Jones’s prior association with “truther” groups is pretty unfortunate, even stupid for a man with so much legitimate promise. The new rules for absolute human spotlessness in Washington – despite the fact that most humans, let alone politicians, are hardly spotless – probably did make Jones the wrong pick for a federal post. But let’s not let all this completely obstruct the fact that Jones has got a lot of really great ideas, ideas that have the potential to help any American, of any political party. Gillibrand should be communicating this at the highest volume – to put politics to bed and good ideas back in charge.

–Mia Lamar