Green news wires are reporting that Van Jones, longtime social justice activist and green jobs advocate, has been tapped as a “green jobs czar” for the Obama administration—though a White House aide counsels that that title is not entirely accurate. The White House Council on Environmental Quality confirms that such a position has been filled and that an announcement is forthcoming.
I spoke with Jones this afternoon, who sounded all smiles, and was happy to accept congratulations on the new gig. Jones, the founder and president of Green For All, wouldn’t confirm whether he is currently in Washington (I’m told there will not be an in-person announcement), but will soon relocate to begin the work of creating, as Green For All's website proclaims, “a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”
Jones’ work, with longtime collaborators such as MacArthur winner and Green For All co-founder Majora Carter, to “green the ghetto,” has been primarily been among communities of color, but has increasingly involved crossover outreach to traditionally white environmental activists who have not always embraced minority concerns about the environment, or emphasized the economic benefits promised by a clean economy powered by new green jobs.
When Jones hits Washington, billions of dollars in Recovery Act money will be directed to projects given his seal of approval. Most greens—of all colors—should be ecstatic that the Green Collar Economy author and Center for American Progress fellow is getting his hands on the other kind of green he’s talked so fervently about. The WALL STREET JOURNAL, however, pours cold water on this development—fretting about “czar overload” and the efficiency of having so many different overseers in such a complex financial climate. And they raise a good point: “Wasn’t green-jobs-legislation-sponsoring Hilda Solis pretty much meant to be a green jobs czar as Labor Secretary, anyway?”
But in this deep recession, all hands seem needed on deck—and the political pioneer, who all but clicked his heels over the phone at the responsibility he’s been given, has spent a lifetime preparing for this challenge.
UPDATE: The White House CEQ releases a statement from chairwoman Nancy Sutley, specifying that on Monday, Jones will begin assisting the administration's efforts to create and save jobs while helping the environment. Sutley said Jones will continue his work with "vulnerable communities." His advisory role will not include direct appropriations from the Recovery Act.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.