Van Jones comes to Sacramento

Picked by Obama as the green-jobs czar, he has a vision for America

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

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Van Jones is coming to Sacramento. He will be the featured speaker at Mayor Kevin Johnson’s monthly Greenwise initiative meeting on July 20. The initiative is a yearlong project with the goal of making Sacramento the country’s greenest city. Each month, a diverse group of area residents gather to receive updates and participate in developing local environmental policy.

You may remember Van Jones best because he was thrust into the national spotlight by Fox News’ Glenn Beck. In trying to build his case that President Barack Obama has a socialist agenda, Beck discovered that Obama’s green-job czar Van Jones had a “radical” past. Beck told his viewers that Jones was arrested while demonstrating in the riots following the Rodney King beating trial. Jones was arrested after demonstrating in the World Trade Organization protests. According to Beck, Jones was in Marxist study groups, questioned United States foreign policy and said negative things about the Republican Party. For these reasons, Beck accused him of being a radical revolutionary communist.

After being targeted numerous times on Glenn Beck’s show, Jones resigned from his post as Obama’s green-jobs czar.

Some of you may want to see Van Jones simply because of Beck’s negative endorsement! I have to agree. In his tour de force book, The Green Collar Economy, Jones has brilliantly linked up the environmental and social justice movement and shown how they can work more effectively together.

Challenging the environmental movement to care not just about the wilderness but also about the inner city, Jones stresses that an emphasis on local green-collar jobs will create an undefeatable political alliance. This alliance would include people of color wanting to improve their neighborhoods, unemployed people looking for economic opportunity, environmentalists hoping to move toward a sustainable future, religious people who support helping the poor and business owners who want to create green jobs. Van Jones has a beautiful vision for America.

The same cannot be said for Glenn Beck. Maybe the problem with Beck’s vision for America is that he sees nothing wrong with a group of officers beating a defenseless man, and an all-white jury letting them off the hook.

I will take Van Jones’ vision of America over Beck’s any day. Jones may have said and done things that he later regretted. But Jones has been able to present an inclusive vision that would help Americans create a better future. If that makes Van Jones dangerous, so be it.

Bringing Van Jones here to speak is not a safe political thing to do. Standing up to a bully, especially a bully with a television show, takes courage. I applaud Kevin Johnson for taking this risk.