Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A new kind of organizing - using Recovery funds in Florida

Crossposted at Green for All Blog

It's amazing what a little money can do.

As soon as the Obama Billions from the stimulus package started to trickle down, community groups around the nation began to mobilize with a new found zeal. All of a sudden, programs parched by decades of under-funding are springing to life – the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which has had an average yearly budget of roughly $200 million just received a whopping $5 billion.

That money, however, isn’t flowing as freely as it needs to. In this case, state and local agencies which renovate the homes of families with low incomes to be more energy efficient and thus more affordable to live in, are simply overwhelmed.

In Miami, Florida – my hometown – the local agency providing weatherization assistance employs two full-time employees and weatherized fewer than 100 homes last year. Now, they have the funds to retrofit 3,000-4,000 homes.

This is going to require a new kind of organizing. State and local agencies are not used to having this much money and they’re not used to thinking outside the box in order to spend it. With the carrot of stimulus dollars dangling, the caveat is the money must be spent within two years – a requirement that, at current capacity, no agency in the country will be able to meet.

We need to seize this moment and this opportunity – we’re no longer the powerless, moneyless minority and we need to be prepared and ready for our own success. The stimulus money sent a clear message – this is an administration that will serve the people and society first, but it's up to us on the ground to make sure that investment is spent in an equitable and just manner.

Those of us working on behalf of the public’s highest interest, on behalf of those who have been left out, and on the side of equity and justice, must be at the table to define and create our collective future. Community groups should engage the local agencies that are tasked to spend stimulus dollars and create new collaborations and partnerships that will maximize our communities’ abilities to benefit from this new green wave. We need to bring together existing groups and programs doing job training, involve local contractors and other employers, and engage government officials to create robust and successful green jobs programs that will lay the foundation for future investments in the green economy.

This is starting to take root here in Florida. I’m a proud member of a new coalition in Tampa called Green Jobs for the People – a collaborative of the local Community Development Corporation, the local agency in charge of the weatherization program, and other grassroots community groups. We are calling to incorporate green collar jobs training and pathways out of poverty programs into the city of Tampa’s plans to use stimulus dollars, and to plan for the long term development of an inclusive and equitable green economy. You can learn a little more about our work by reading this article and listening to this interview done by a local radio news program. (Click here to download the mp3 file of the interview)
Green For All is right when they say that now is the time to move from hope to change, from inspiration to implementation. Let’s bring home a green recovery for all. This is just the beginning.

Friday, March 6, 2009

300 Florida Youth in One Room

Wow! What an amazing feeling to be in a room with 300 young people who had travelled to D.C. all the way from Florida to join 12,000 other young people from around the country in order to demand action on the energy and climate conference. The Florida break out session was inspirational and really gave me chills. 300 plus students in a room who all are active on their campuses and representing hundereds of other individuals who could not make the trip to D.C. Power Shift showed that there are plenty of young people who care about climate change, clean energy, and green jobs. For me, it was amazing to see that we have so many of them in Florida!

Carbon Free Nuclear Free

I wanted to post this picture from the Capitol Climate Action (http://www.capitolclimateaction.org/) that I took part in on Monday. We are currently fighting for the concept of Carbon Free Nuclear Free here in Florida. Some folke in the Florida legislature want to define nuclear as a clean and renewable source of energy. They want to change the Renwable Energy Portfolio (RPS) to a Clean Energy Standard in order to include nuclear in the definition of renewable energy. Please read the action alert below:

The Battle for True Renewable Energy Begins

The utility industry is aggressively lobbying the Legislature to allow nuclear power as an eligible resource in meeting the target of 20% renewable energy. This self-serving utility scheme, labeled as a “clean energy portfolio standard,” is unprecedented as no other state permits the inclusion of nuclear energy to meet renewable energy goals. Nuclear energy is a prohibitively expensive energy source with little job creation benefits and it has no place in a policy intended to promote renewable energy!

Voice your Concerns!

Contact Governor Crist and ask him to stand up to utility lobbyists that are trying to undermine the RPS intended to reach his target of 20% renewables by 2020. Your outreach to the Governor will make a difference!

Email: Charlie.Crist@myflorida.com
Telephone: (850) 488-7146

Contact the following legislative leaders. They sit on key committees that will have significant influence over the RPS – it’s important that they hear from you that nuclear power has no place in a policy intended to promote renewable energy!

Senator Lee Constantine (Orlando)
Email: constantine.lee.web@flsenate.gov
Telephone: (850) 487-5050

Senator Jim King (Jacksonville)
Email: king.james.web@flsenate.gov
Telephone: (850) 487-5030

Representative Page Kreegel (Punta Gorda)
Telephone: (850) 488-9175

Rep. Debbie Mayfield (Vero Beach)
Telephone: (850) 488-0952

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Power is Starting to Shift

This past weekend I had the honor of participating in two events in Washington D.C. The first was a conference called Power Shift which brought together 12,000 young folks (many of whom were college students) to learn and take action on the energy and climate crisis. I have to say that my expectations for this event were far exceeded. Most panel and workshop discussion were having to turn people away because so many folks were intersted in attending. The workshops had speakers who discussed science, local initiatives (several mayors presented in one of the panels I attended), and even faith/spirituality (which of course I thought was superb, but of course I am not biased at all). The best part of Power Shift for me was on Saturday evening after the Roots performed when at least 8,000 of the participants did not leave the convention center. Instead they all lingered in the lobby chanting and singing for about 45 minutes, calling for bold action on the climate and energy crisis. They were chanting for carbon reductions, equitable green jobs, and a focus on devloping a clean energy grid. It not only recharged my grassroots organizing batteries, but it gave me hope that these young adults are serious about taking action on the energy and climate crisis. On Monday morning, this was confirmed when D.C. saw the most snow it has encounterd in several years. Still, thousands of these individuals went to speak with their elected officials on Capitol Hill. It was an awesome site to be walking around the Capital and to see that 95 percent of the people I passed were from Power Shift. Many of them had their green hard hats on with their suits and certainly looked ready to speak truth to power.

My Monday then continued after briefly participating in the Power Shift rally on the Capitol law, by walking towards Justice Park to participate in a protest again the Capitol Coal Plant. I have to say that this is an event I am having trouble explaining, because the energy I felt in this crowd of 2500 people is hard to put into words. All I can say is I encourage you to go to the website: http://www.capitolclimateaction.org/ and check out some of the video and pictures posted there. I have included a picture of the affinity group I marched with from the Carbon Free Nuclear Free Alliance. It was an honor to spend my afternoon with them and I think we added the added voice that nuclear power is also not a smart or viable option in energy production. I believe this was only the begginning of a growing movement of folks who are no longer willing to accept business as usual in this country. We cannot sit on the sidelines while mountains are blown up, communities ravaged by sickness and disease from mining and coal plant emmissions, and while the climate science continues to grow bleeker by the day.

I was proud to be a part of these two events this past weekend. I look forward to continuing this fight with everyone who was in D.C., for those who were supporting us from their homes, and for those who will join us in the future. It was truly an honor to have participated in what I saw as the continuation of a power shift in this great nation.


Jesse Glickstein
Faiths Untied for Sustainable Energy (www.fusenow.org)