Thursday, November 04, 2010

Setting The Agenda

The days after an election traditionally are set aside for post-mortems, so a lot of ink and electrons are being spilled trying to determine just what went wrong for Democrats and what went right for Republicans. It's also a time when people start reminding the victors of those campaign promises and start demanding that they keep them. That's why I was quite happy to see Tom Hayden, a '60's radical bad boy, offer his advice to California and to Governor-Elect Jerry Brown in the Los Angeles Times.

Now Hayden is someone I've always appreciated for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he belied my father's dismissal of those who marched for civil rights and against war back in the day: "eh...arsonists at 18 are always firefighters at 48." Yes, Hayden went from "rabble rousing" to mainstream politics, serving in the California state legislature and serving on various state commissions over the years. He may have toned down his rhetoric, but he never diluted his commitment to peace or to justice. Instead of tearing down the system, he burrowed his way into it and then began subverting the worst parts of it. Good man, him.

What he has to say in this opinion piece is highly relevant to California and to the rest of the country. His focus is on California's commitment to green energy, a commitment which this election proves to still be quite strong. Jerry Brown included an emphasis on continuing this drive, one that he helped start during his first governorship. However, given the state of California's economy, it won't be quite so easy this time. Hayden gives him some wise advice on how to keep those campaign promises. is Brown's California that is poised to implement a vision of putting people to work at green jobs that will reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. Brown's promise is to create 500,000 new green jobs in the next eight years, and we voters should hold him to — and help him realize — that pledge.

Brown faces two main challenges. The first is how to pay for a cleaner energy future. He has expressed hope that setting a requirement that one-third of the state's energy needs come from renewable sources by 2020 will jump-start private investment. Brown cites the example of the aerospace industry as a model. But he downplays the billions in federal investment that made that industry possible. He needs to recognize that some combination of rate hikes and tax revenues will be necessary to get the electricity-based transit revolution he envisions up and running.

The other challenge is to ensure that all Californians benefit from the state's green energy push. Brown has succeeded in portraying his energy vision as good for the economy, but he has not explained how it will benefit the black and brown voters at the core of his support. Put bluntly, the green future cannot be purely white. This is a great opportunity to put people to work who are now locked out of the job market. And in the end, it makes far more sense to employ at-risk youth weatherizing homes and installing solar collectors than locking them up in the largest mass incarceration system in the world. ...

Brown may find that a greener future is incompatible with the state's massive spending on incarceration at the expense of education. African Americans are 3% of UC students and Latinos are 11%. At the same time, those groups are 30% and 40%, respectively, of the state's inmates. While the state was building 33 new prisons in recent decades, its school funding has been stagnant. Prioritizing education and rehabilitation over prisons in state budgets could both save money and supply a steady and well-trained workforce for a green economy.

Nicely said, Mr. Hayden.

Or, more properly, Right On!

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