Sacramento Residents have an opportunity to make their region a national leader for green technology development, according to author and activist Van Jones, who received a standing ovation for his speech at Mayor Kevin Johnson’s second public meeting for Greenwise Sacramento.
"The kind of environmental solutions that make sense for Sacramento make sense for America," Jones said.
Over 400 area residents attended the Tuesday afternoon meeting to listen to the former special adviser to the Obama administration. He said that he has travelled all over the country for green events, and he was impressed with Sacramento’s.
"Usually (a city) will have the mayor, they’ll have a press conference and one green intern, and that’s their whole agenda," Jones said. "I think the most important thing to say is that you have a mayor in Kevin Johnson that is totally breaking the mold…This is a mayor that is showing regional leadership."
With unemployment still high in the area, Jones sympathized with local leaders and residents.
"It’s tough at the local level, you get all the pain," he said. "You see all the impact of bad economic policy and bad trade policy."
Jones also said it is important to integrate the lower-income communities into the action plan.
"Think about Oak Park, they should be at the center of this agenda," he said. "If you’re an aluminum can you got a great chance in Sacramento, but what about a child in Oak Park?"
Jones ended his speech by stressing that this is an initiative both conservatives and progressives can get behind.
The meeting was held to boost awareness for Mayor Johnson’s green initiative. The initiative has five policy focus areas: energy, waste and recycling, water and nature, urban design and green building, and green and clean technology. Each of these issue areas are led by an individual selected by the mayor.
Over the next several months, an action plan will be developed for the region, including six counties and 22 cities, that Mayor Johnson will reveal in January of 2011. The mayor concedes that getting elected officials to work together across city boundaries will be tough, but he said he is determined to make it work.
"My vision is really to transform Sacramento into the Emerald Valley," Johnson said. "Why can’t we, as Sacramento, be the leader when it comes to sustainable technology?"
He said Sacramento is over-reliant on government jobs and real estate, and that this initiative will help shift our the workforce into profitable, enduring job sectors.
Dean Steven Currall from the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management was there to speak about his role as the leader for the green and clean technology policy area. He stressed that central to the entire initiative was job creation in the Sacramento region that would involve several different components of the community.
"It’s very much an ecosystem model that involves higher education" as well as innovators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other parts of the business community, Currall said.
Currall’s responsibility is to lead a team of individuals that will focus on market creation and demand, regional business opportunities, finance, education and innovation based entrepreneurship.
The mayor said he felt that the event was a huge success and wants residents to get involved.
"I would beg people in Sacramento to go on the Greenwise website, sign up for the initiative and come to the monthly meetings. If you just start there, we’ll plug you into a policy area, and we’ll teach you how you can be helpful," he said.
Marie Brown, 52, from Eco-Chic Design in Lincoln has been an environmentalist for more than 30 years and came to learn more about the initiative and to hear Jones speak.
"I actually was a lawyer,” she said. “I decided to switch from that to something where I felt I could…help people improve the health in their own homes and their workplaces with healthy interiors."
Executive Director Simeon Gant of Green Technical Education and Employment, a program where young people can learn about career opportunities in green technology, brought two of his students to learn more about the initiative. He said he sees a clean environment as an impotent asset to leave to future generations.
"Our grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to wonder how we could allow our country and our world be degraded by the way we were building, the way we were living. I thought that was very important," he said.