Could lingering tension from the fallout reach into your home?
Van Jones’ frequent teachings to people from disadvantaged communities have included views like, “white polluters are poisoning communities of color”. He may have resigned from his White House post, but this former czar’s Green Jobs programs will continue on without interruption. Many of the beneficiaries – and Van Jones admirers – of one such program are now graduating from stimulus-funded Residential Weatherization Certification training programs all across the country. And while Congress and the White House refuse to denounce the racially divisive statements of Van Jones, these graduates will soon be moving onto the next phase of their certification program: performing government mandated Weatherization work in your private home. In light of rising tensions over the fallout, does this concern anyone? It concerned me, because I’m in NJ and I personally have already received the materials requesting that I make an appointment to have a “certified weatherization specialist” come in to inspect my home and do an energy efficiency assessment. (To skip down to the NJ Green for All Program and see these documents, click here).
Throughout all of the recent controversy about Van Jones, and now finally his resignation, there was always something that had personally kept nagging at me. I’d been researching for some time the money and resources that this administration, progressive philanthropists, and labor unions have been investing in ‘Green’ initiatives. I’d also done a prior post back in June, “Whose Agenda is it, Really?”, about the fact that the current agenda and policies, as well as most of the stimulus package, appear to have been written by the labor unions and not by our current members of Congress.
Several seemingly unrelated sets of documents that I have in my files were consistently popping into my mind as I continued to follow the Van Jones story. And the more that I heard such hateful rhetoric directly from the mouth of Van Jones on video, the more concerned I became, and the more that “nagging feeling” kept prodding me to go through my research folders so that I could make whatever connection might be bothering me. And now I know why Van Jones’ statements were bothering me, for more reasons than the outwardly obvious:
Van Jones is a man that progressives and environmentalists have held high on a pedestal. Like the President, he is a skilled orator and a best-selling author. He has represented causes that he claims aim to lift individuals out of poverty. This administration and everyone close to it, including key members of Congress, know everything there is to know about Van Jones. He has been a guest at many of their own events, where some of his recently publicized controversial statements were made. They have embraced his views – good AND bad – for years. The words of Van Jones have helped mold the opinions of likely hundreds of thousands of individuals across this nation, especially in inner-city and poverty stricken areas. Make no mistake, Van Jones was, and still is, a very powerful force. He is an influencer, a channeler, a persuader. He can affect others to say and do things. And for years, he has been preaching his self-proclaimed Marxist views, the evils of “suicidal gray capitalism”, and he has been telling the residents in communities of color that “white polluters” have been “poisoning their communities.”
And just as Van Jones resigns, many of these disciples, beneficiaries of $500 million (with billions more to come) in Green Jobs stimulus funds, will become graduates of weatherization training programs, and then they will be sent directly into the private residences of the very people that Van Jones has told them have been “poisoning their communities”.
THIS is the reason that this is a bigger story than a 9/11 Truther petition or a right-wing smear story. This is a story that needs investigating, and one that needs to be told, before any of these residential programs – currently optional –move into the mandatory participation phase. The mainstream media has an obligation to serve as one of the checks and balances, a duty it’s grossly neglected to perform in recent months.
So, What Do These Green Jobs Initiatives Have to Do With Me?
About the Weatherization and Green Jobs Program
Through the stimulus bill, under the headings of “DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, ENERGY PROGRAMS” (beginning on page 24 of H.R.1), our federal government launched a national “Weatherization Assistance Program”, which in turn also provided funding to the states and select labor unions for the “Weatherization and Green Jobs” program, part of the overall Green Jobs initiatives. This particular program partners local labor unions with each of their state’s public utilities board to send into your private home newly certified weatherization contractors who are either formerly incarcerated or come from inner-city and impoverished, minority neighborhoods. The program has already received stimulus funds and has been rolled out to all of the state coordinators and associated labor unions. This particular program, only a small component of a much broader set of initiatives, falls under the authority of the Green Jobs Czar, which by the way is a position that was also established and funded in the stimulus bill (under same section as noted above – see the image to the left to follow the full circle of connections).
A few months back, I downloaded a variety of labor union and progressive presentations on Green Jobs and “environmental justice”. I revisited this one this past week, which was a Powerpoint presentation that was shared by Van Jones on a March 5, 2009 national conference call.
And there it was, on slide 3 – one of the details that had been nagging at me throughout this controversy. On this slide, it discusses the stimulus funds and relationship benefits of the nationwide Weatherization Assistance Program relative to the jobs it will create; it highlights one group of individuals that this administration and its Green Jobs czar have in mind as a key recruitment pool for these jobs (noted on that slide, in red):
Yes, it says formerly incarcerated.
That intent was reaffirmed by Van Jones’ “Green Jobs, Not Jails” initiative, which aims to give the incarcerated from low-income areas clean, green jobs instead so that “the drug trade isn’t the only game in town”:
The Weatherization and Residential Energy Efficiency Program is a certification program, facilitated (in my state, at least) by the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) and other unions, that entails training individuals from inner-city communities, with a focus on reaching some who are or were formerly incarcerated, to become “Weatherization Installers” and “Energy Auditors”. Upon becoming certified, the individuals are then placed with local weatherization contractors that have signed collective bargaining agreements with the local participating union. Those businesses are then placed on the state’s list of certified contractors.
There are three parts to the program:
Part 1: The stimulus-bill funded Weatherization and Green Jobs Training Program rolls out to the unions, in NJ through LIUNA (a Change to Win union, sister union to SEIU). Also called the Weatherization and Residential Energy Efficiency Program.
Part 2: The notification of mandatory program participation, sent jointly by the local energy utility provider (JCP&L) and the state Board of Public Utilities program (Comfort Partners Program).
Part 3: Certified Weatherization Specialist contractor selection and scheduling.
Part 1: LIUNA and the Weatherization Training program
Notice that the document states that participants will:
- Become certified as a “Weatherization Installer/Technician” or an “Energy Auditor”, in addition to learning new green labor trades.
- Benefit from their training sponsor’s local union “opening their doors for new workers [who complete the certification program] to join their union”.
- Benefit from the unions’ collective bargaining agreements that are being signed with local weatherization contractors [where certification grads will then be placed as Weatherization Installers and Energy Auditors]
Minus some concerns that I personally have about formerly incarcerated employees being sent into my home without anyone notifying me of their backgrounds, as well as the fact that residents’ participation in the weatherization program will soon be required rather than optional, the overall concept of employing individuals from disadvantaged communities in some of these emerging environmental jobs would not otherwise bother me. In fact, I’d help support such efforts. Download the document here.
Here’s how Van Jones has promoted this program to the general public:
If you’d never heard some of Van Jones’ more hateful rhetoric, perhaps the program wouldn’t bother anyone – it seems noble enough at its face value. But the truth is, we HAVE heard his rhetoric. It’s offensive and it’s frightening. And it’s a sincere concern that our government still has not denounced any of the OTHER statements from this man.
Part 2: The Comfort Partners Program
How the Weatherization Program is Reaching Residents
The First Wave of the Weatherization and Green Jobs Program Has Already Arrived in NJ
This last April, I received a letter that was jointly written by my state’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and my electric utility company (JCP&L). While the letter bothered me enough at the time that I’d received it, it suddenly started nagging at me again amidst the Van Jones controversy, so I finally went and pulled it back out and took another close look.
The letter had indicated that the BPU and JCP&L were partnering together to weatherize homes in certain areas, in conjunction with a statewide program called the Comfort Partners Program, which is a government Weatherization Assistance Program. That letter went on to request my cooperation in complying with the requests made in it
When I’d read the letter back in April, at first, I was very confused as to why I’d even received this letter. It stated that
“Customers who have a high electric bill and receive USF credit may be required to participate in this program.”
I actually had to go online at the time and look up what the “USF credit” is…it’s the Universal Service Fund, which is a social services program that essentially enables unemployed and low-income individuals to defer their utility bill charges for a temporary period of time and offers a modest credit to their account that the individual pays back once the program ends.
I hadn’t even been aware that I was enrolled in such a program. But then it became clear to me that I was receiving the letter in error.
You see, several years ago, I was temporarily disabled for a somewhat extended period of time, and thus unemployed (and uninsured). After exhausting all of my savings at the time and being left unable to pay my mortgage or utility and medical bills, I remembered that I’d filed a preliminary application with social services for financial assistance. However, I never submitted the final application, as I’d ultimately felt that relying upon an entitlement program was really against my own principles and offered very limited support anyway. Friends, family and community members had come to my aid and provided far more assistance, in a multitude of ways, than any state or federal program ever could have. And at that time, I’d felt that was the more appropriate vehicle for me to pursue.
Once I realized this was sent to me in error, I nearly threw the letter away. But something made me stop and read it in its entirety, and upon closer examination, the content really concerned me – specifically two key statements,
“Customers who have a high electric bill and receive USF credit may be required to participate in this program.”
The word “required” was bolded and underlined. Then, the letter continued, informing me that
“a representative will contact me to set up an appointment to come to my home…during the visit the representative will ask me questions about how I use energy in my home, and will provide me with tips on energy conservation and a list of measures that may be installed in my home, such as attic insulation, caulking, weatherstripping…and energy saving appliances.” An application included with the letter goes on to explain that certified energy auditors and weatherization technicians will come to the home and perform the work.
Again, at the time I’d first read it, I had some concerns so I remember calling a number that was provided and asking whether I’d really be required to participate in the program. The person I’d spoken with seemed to acknowledge that I probably was not supposed to receive the letter, but went on to explain that the program would eventually be rolled out to the entire state, and perhaps even the whole country, so “you might as well go ahead and participate”, she’d said.
Part 3: Certified Weatherization Specialist contractor selection and scheduling
I also remember asking about how the inspection and the actual work would be done, and it was explained that the program would send in their own “green certified contractors” to come into my home and do the work. This pertains to the “Weatherization and Green Jobs Program” discussed in the first half of this post.
After reading the letter the first time, a few things immediately concerned me:
- What business is it of any government, state or federal, how high my electric bill is? Granted, if the state is paying for it, I guess I could concede that it has some vested interest in that info as a cost planning measure, but what do they classify as “high” and how do they determine what’s too high? I was disabled, and home all day every day, so my energy use was constant. And now, my live-in boyfriend who is retired is home all day. It’s not like we go running around turning on every single light and running every appliance – we use what we need, when we need it. So how do a utility company and the BPU even judge that number fairly without knowing my situation?
- The letter indicates that this program is for low-income / disadvantaged neighborhoods, and indicates that these services and appliances are provided FREE of charge. Why are taxpayers subsidizing this? With such a bad economy right now especially, is this truly the best return on investment? Even so, is it not an encroachment of the Constitutional powers that limit the federal government and protect the rights of the states and the people?
- The application asks me my race. Why? Why do you want this information? What does this have to do with a government weatherization program?
- A specially certified green contractor coming in to inspect my home?
I wasn’t 100% comfortable with that when I first read the letter…
But, after that nagging feeling prompted me to go back to some of my research and find what it is that made me uneasy about this whole Van Jones fiasco, now I am NOT AT ALL COMFORTABLE WITH THIS!!
The only reason I even knew about it was because someone in government made an error in the paperwork and sent me a letter by accident, which reminded me that I’d seen that language someplace before.
I would urge everyone to remain vigilant in watching this situation progress and speaking out about it. Van Jones may have stepped down, but the plans that were drafted in 2007 and again in February 2009 after the passage of the Stimulus bill still remain in place. While a new appointee may take the reigns, these programs that are little known to the public with little government oversight and with zero accountability to Congress still remain in motion. Just because Van Jones has stepped down does not mean that those who have admired his rhetoric and who come through these training programs will forget what he’s taught them. And that will have an impact on the many people whose homes are part of the weatherization program.
Conflicting Statements in Congressman’s Response?
Another related issue to this is regarding a letter of opposition that I’d written to my Congressman on the Clean Energy bill (Cap & Trade) a few months ago. After I’d sent it, I received the standard response letter from the Congressman’s office. In his response (he was one of the infamous Cap & Trade Republican turncoats), he included in defense of his “Yes” vote a list of “Myths, which very interestingly conflicted entirely with the letter that I’d already received from the state and my utility company regarding the Weatherization Assistance Program, of all things! I included his response letter here, with some of my own annotations.
Now, I am in full support of doing what we all can together to help lift communities out of poverty. Hell, I grew up in one myself; a railroad community that was only a small step up from poverty. But I believe that race has no place in heated rhetoric about these policies, such as the type that I’ve heard and read from Van Jones.
But ask yourself this: If your mother or grandmother was an elderly senior citizen, living alone in an impoverished neighborhood, and the government sent over a convicted criminal who was recently released from prison and who subscribes to Van Jones’ “white polluters” view, as a certified contractor to inspect and weatherize her home, would you have any concerns about this? Of course you would. Is it racist to oppose this administration’s plans for programs like these, especially in light of hearing about so much of Van Jones’ hateful rhetoric? No, it’s not, no matter what some may try to accuse you of feeling.
Let me try to take care in making this next point: The issue of greatest concern here has nothing to do with race or discrimination – the issue here is that Van Jones has made repeated public statements, accusing the “white polluters of poisoning the people of colored communities”. The administration and members of Congress have still not denounced such statements, appearing to be complicit in such beliefs. And now, in the wake of such hateful rhetoric, the federal government will continue with a program that will send newly trained individuals (some formerly incarcerated) from these very communities into the homes that they have been told by Van Jones are the homes of “white polluters” who have been “poisoning their community”.
Secondly, should the government really have a role in inspecting and weatherizing people’s homes? They’ll explain that the true intent is to reduce the energy bill expenses of those receiving government assistance. If that were the case, then why not target the real root of the issue – getting more people off of government assistance and back to being productive members of society? Why try and hold down the very people you claim you want to help, by perpetuating their poverty? Government officials and politicians will also claim that it’s intended to create jobs and to help protect the environment. Well, then why not offer the incentives to the job creators and allow the free market to drive those initiatives instead?
This administration is more concerned with political payback to special interests and labor unions than it is with doing what’s really right for American citizens. Seriously, how much faith do you have in politicians who stand by radicals with views like Van Jones, who want to ram change right into our private homes?
Other Van Jones Videos:
Van Jones, at the 2nd Annual Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) event; mocks UC Berkeley student who questions his beliefs and challenges them as Marxist; he responds “How’s that capitalism working for ya’?”
Progressive Organization Presentations on “Green” Topics:
Green Jobs / Green Economy / Eco-Apartheid / Eco-Equity
As a supplement in understanding the strategies shaping the policies, and the policies shaping the tactics, and the tactics shaping the programs, below are some of those old presentations that I’d downloaded on the Green Jobs / Green Economy initiatives. Some go as far back as several years, others are more recent. When you review presentations and papers collectively, as a whole, the picture begins to become clearer. You can see how groups like the Apollo Alliance and the Center for American Progress have worked with leaders like Van Jones to use “Green Economy / Green Jobs” as the core component for central change in ALL policy areas: Health Care, Jobs & Wages, Immigration Policy, Card Check, Wealth Redistribution. Aside from what’s posted here, some other research out there reveals activities that are entirely legitimate efforts, while others seem to hint at potential ulterior motives. Also get familiar with the common themes and terms used throughout many of the presentations in today’s climate:
- Environmental Justice
- A Green New Deal platform
- Discusses the Clean Energy Corps, newly established under Americorps on 4/23/2009, which will be a successor to the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration of the 1930s New Deal. Civilians commit to service for pay to combat global warming and advocate for eco-equity, etc.
- Slide 29 focuses on the well-being of Americans (or lack of it) and says that “Eco-footprints are correlated with lifestyle”, meaning that the more you use from the earth, the more unhealthy (and obese) you likely are, which is expensive for everyone and displaces the less wealthy.
- Slide 32 offers a chart that focuses on “Wasted Wealth: Diminishing returns from health care expenditures”
- Slide 33 asks the question, “Can the already wealthy be persuaded to live on smaller footprints so the poor may live at all?”
- Correcting the issue of imbalance between “the ecological haves and have-nots”
- Redistribution of “Eco-assets”; ensuring that communities of color are provided the same assets that affluent areas enjoy
- “Park-starved communities” – implies that communities of color may be deprived of “clean air” while affluent areas have access to park land and conservation areas, bike paths, etc.
- “Toxic Assets” – implies facilities of higher toxic release may intentionally be placed in communities f color
“Communities of color have long been targeted for toxic facilities, including dumps and incinerators. Not only are they fighting back, but they’re also creating sustainable alternatives.”