No sooner than the minute I filed my story on Van Jones' new appointment to the White House as advisor on green jobs did I get an e-mail from Van Jones about this very topic. It wasn't a personal e-mail from Jones but rather an e-mail from the Green for All listserv announcing his new position. Here, he disspells a number of rumors that had been circulating since word got out about his "Green Jobs Czar"-ship. First, he's not a "czar," Jones informs us, and second, he defers to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on who should be a "Green Jobs Czar" -- or "Czarina" as Jones puts it -- which was a point I raised with Joe Romm of Climateprogress when I interviewed him for our story.
Most interesting to me was the job description Jones provides:
"My job will be to help shape the administration's energy and climate policy, so that climate solutions produce jobs and justice for all Americans."
It's the all Americans that concerns me. It was widely reported that Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said Jones' position would be about focusing on "vulnerable communities." Jones' Green for All e-mail doesn't mention "vulnerable communities" once. As I point out in our story, Jones' legacy was built on prioritizing jobs and resources for poor and minority populations. I'm really hoping that legacy won't be abandoned.
But, I can't help but be reminded of a conversation I had about this with Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE. She said the emergence of stars like Jones were making things "a bit more complicated" for community organizations, especially when the idea is pushed that "it's all of us or none of us" who will be helped by the green-jobs agenda.
"The minute you open the doors to everybody then you diminish the power of communities of color," said Yeampierre. "I don't want to be critical of something that can be so transformative, but all of a sudden you have these new [national organizations] deciding for our communities what the agenda is going to be on green jobs. That's a very top-down approach that goes against what we've been working for."