All posts by Ella Baker Center

State punts on substantive prison reform. Again.

by Jennifer Kim & Zachary Norris

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

In a compromise that places politics before progress, Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature have punted yet again. Rather than seizing a historic opportunity to safely reduce the prison population and save critical resources to restore programs that have faced devastating cuts in previous years, the state has chosen a strategy to increase prison beds and private prison contracts.  

Other states have invested in sensible reforms.  Texas diverted funding away from prison expansion to fund their Nurse-Family Partnerships Program, a national model that reduces crime and helps low-income families.  Meanwhile, California’s posse of fear mongering Republicans and weak willed Democrats (with the exception of Senators Loni Hancock and Noreen Evans) warn us of an imaginary crime wave that will result if a single elderly prison is medically paroled.  These “leaders” have asked for yet another timeout to figure out how to reduce the prison population.  This may be a reasonable request if not for the fact that we’ve been wrestling with this same issue since 2006.  

In recent budget hearings, I witnessed our legislators patting themselves on their backs for the progress they have made since 2006 in reducing the state prison population.  The first punt went to our 58 counties, resulting in a geographical shift of our problems, rather than a solution.  For good measure, the state punted yet again, shifting prisoners over to states like Oklahoma and Mississippi, consequently enriching the pockets of private prison profiteers.  And now, with a court deadline less than four months away, the state’s hemming and hawing has resulted in a compromise that reeks of a regurgitation of failed policies.  

We cannot spend or build our way out of this mess.  For years, advocates have pushed simple, cost effective measures to safely reduce the prison population including increasing good time credits and expanding elderly and medical parole.  These reforms can be implemented immediately. A case in Los Angeles County of a man serving a 42-year sentence for a non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent crime in county jail demonstrates the urgency for comprehensive sentencing reform.  Instead of investing in robust rehabilitative and reentry supports, we continue to cut rehabilitation programs, ensuring that less than 5% of the $10 billion annual corrections budget goes to reducing recidivism.  

The state’s handling of its overcrowded prisons speaks to a greater and disheartening truth; that schools, parks, and libraries will continue to fall prey to a insatiable corrections budget; that the need for teachers, nurses, and firefighters are outweighed by special interests who benefit from the status quo and who continue to fill the pockets of politicians; and that simply, we would rather lock a man up rather than give him an education.  Our reliance on prisons will continue the downward spiral into financial and moral bankruptcy unless our leaders muster the courage to address the most costly and devastating issue facing our communities today.

In addition to sensible criminal justice reforms, the state needs to implement broader justice reinvestment-moving resources away from prisons to innovative programs and ideas, proven to enhance public safety by lifting up communities.  This year, Alameda County created an Innovations in Reentry Fund, an initiative that has solicited ideas and programs from the community to reduce recidivism and enhance reentry supports.  These are the kinds of strategies we need to pull the state out of crisis and focus on what we truly care about: education, jobs, health and human services, and a clean environment.  

An Opportunity We Can’t Afford To Miss

By Jakada Imani

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

We’ve heard it before – “the green economy is here” and “green jobs are on the way!” At the Ella Baker Center, we put time, energy, and money into building training programs and promoting the idea of the “new,” green economy. Just a few years later, the economy crashed and green jobs became fewer and farther between than anticipated.

Now, more than ever, jobs of any kind are hard to find. But a weak economy doesn’t make the bad air any less harmful, or the energy bills we pay any more affordable. In a sustainable, healthy economy, people shouldn’t have to settle for grey jobs. Fortunately, Jerry Brown has a plan to fight unemployment and put more Californians to work fixing up houses and apartments to reduce energy consumption- the renewal and reform of the Public Goods Charge.

The Governor recently proposed a plan that puts the small surcharge most Californians already see on our monthly electricity bills to good, green use. His plan would direct the Public Goods Charge to fund jobs, projects and research reducing energy consumption, pollution, and our dependence on oil and coal. Set to expire at the end of 2011, the Public Goods Charge fund has been re-worked to invest directly in jobs for our communities and energy savings in our homes. In fact, Governor Brown’s plan calls for every dime to be spent maximizing job creation, both immediately and in years to come.

Of this large fund, the lion’s share- $250 million a year- is dedicated to energy retrofits of houses and apartments, with a requirement that at least 25% of the money be spent in low-income communities. This money would immediately go to work providing energy efficiency in our neighborhoods, while employing people from our neighborhoods. Many of us literally cannot afford to miss out on this tremendous investment.

California is known for innovation and leadership on economic and environmental issues, and this plan is no exception. The second-largest category of spending, $150 million a year, is to be dedicated to research and development of new technologies and businesses. This includes incentives for home and business owners to install solar power on their roofs. When our community buildings and neighbors’ homes become power plants, dollars are kept in the neighborhood while pollution is kept out of the air. It’s a true win-win, with the added bonus of creating jobs installing and maintaining these new, green energy sources.

The strength of the Governor’s plan is clearly not just “clean energy” but “economic energy,” a true example of what’s possible when policies connect people most in need of jobs with the work that most needs to get done. Imagine 100 breadwinners employed retrofitting homes, now able to buy their kids school supplies and groceries. At the same time, their hours of work are helping their neighbors live a healthier, more energy-efficient life. Like an electric charge, the money transfers and flows from one source to the next, powering everything in its path.

Too often we are told that we must choose between jobs and the environment. This is a false choice. An economy that promotes the health of the planet as well as their workers is better for everyone. Growing a strong green economy is the best way out of California’s unemployment crisis. It is essential for people of color and low-income communities to be a part of that recovery. And an essential first step is to renew the Public Goods Charge.

Join me in calling on our State leadership to act quickly and renew the Public Goods Charge – a great example of a solution to address California’s problems of poverty and pollution at the same time.

California’s Turning Tide on Youth Prisons

Seven years ago, Books Not Bars started calling for closing California’s youth prisons. People laughed in our faces. Literally. Even reformers who agreed in private, thought we were foolish to call for shuttering the largest set of youth prisons in the Country.

Monday, Governor Jerry Brown presented a plan to do just that. In the $12.5 billion in spending cuts was a proposal to close the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth prisons by 2014.

This is not merely a victory of activists and politicians. The real champions are the mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles that would not give up on their children or our state. Families who knew that by closing youth prisons we could open real opportunities for California’s youth. Families that pushed us to look at what other states had done. States such as Missouri showed there was a better way to invest in youth, families and communities, while decreasing crime at the same time. Bringing together families of incarcerated youth gave Books Not Bars the power and the resolve to push for closing this costly and abusive system.

Over the next few months, the Governor’s budget will be analyzed and debated. Strong opposition to the closure of DJJ will be an obstacle for sure. However, the mere fact that Governor Brown’s budget includes the closing of the DJJ prisons means that the tide has turned- politicians are starting to realize what our families have known for years — dumping youth in prisons doesn’t make us safer.  And we hope this turning tide will also lead California to examine its relationship to all prisons, and break our addiction to lock ’em up policies that do little to invest in people or increase public safety.

Whether this budget cycle is the nail in the coffin for the notorious  DJJ, or it happens next year or the year after that, this is a historic moment in our work and for California. In a span of just seven years, Books Not Bars has shifted the way our state looks at its youth and youth prisons.

When we first began, we were just a handful of families meeting on the weekends.  Our early days were marked with unthinkable tragedies.  On Martin Luther King Day in 2004, two young men hanged themselves in the youth prison cell they shared.  Allen Feaster and Fonda Whitfield lost their sons that day.  With us, they turned their tragedy into powerful appeals for change.  “Look at his death as a new beginning,” Mr. Feaster told lawmakers, as he urged them to close the abusive youth prisons.  Sadly, that year at least two other young people- Roberto Lombana and Dyron Brewer died within the walls of the DJJ dungeons.

Families held vigils across California, and traveled to Missouri to see the national juvenile justice model for themselves.  Mothers and fathers wept when they saw the type of treatment their children could have had- treatment that could actually rehabilitate and help their kids turn their lives around. They returned to California newly determined to bring the Missouri model home with them.  

A huge movement forward in this work came with the Farrell vs. Cate case championed by our allies at the Prison Law Office. Through the case, report after report documented the abuse, violence and neglect of the youth prisons. At the end of the case, the DJJ (at the time known as the California Youth Authority) signed a consent decree, agreeing to remedy serious on-going problems with conditions in the system. The case and its reports affirmed what we already knew- the system was failing our youth and was overdue for major change.

In 2005, we released System Failure, a film that documents the horrors of California’s youth prisons and features family activists and experts alike calling for the Missouri model to replace the youth prisons.  The movement to transform the DJJ grew as the solution to our ineffective system became clearer.

Since 2004, Books Not Bars has trekked to Sacramento each year with proposals to shrink DJJ and, later, replace it with effective alternatives that would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on schools and much needed services. Our efforts mean that the youth prison population in California has shrunk by 60%, which makes the current budget proposal even more feasible.

In 2007, Assemblymember Sally Lieber introduced our proposal as a groundbreaking bill to shut down the DJJ and direct the millions spent on ineffective, abusive prisons to counties who could do the same job better and still save the state money. That year, the Governor also proposed to keep low-risk, low-need youth at the county level, rather than lock them in the DJJ and to ensure family connections could be maintained.  Some called our closure bill “rather radical,” but we pushed and got through one committee.  That was far enough to help the Governor’s more modest plan succeed.  In a huge step forward for California, DJJ became forbidden for youth who committed minor offenses.  

The next year, DJJ’s failures, dwindling population and skyrocketing cost forced not one, but two youth prisons to close. We started seeing non-partisan reports that recommended closing DJJ altogether.  We were no longer the only voices calling for this bold change. In 2009, we launched a campaign to target Stark and Preston prisons, and later that year officials announced the closure of Stark youth prison. And right before the end of 2010, plans to close Preston Youth Prison- the oldest and most remote facility- were announced.

And now, the next great opportunity is upon us. Governor Brown is taking a bold step towards a California that invests in its youth instead of locking them up. Books Not Bars will continue to share the stories, statistics and solutions that clearly demonstrate that the time for DJJ to close is now and we hope a broad movement of Californians will stand with us. This current milestone, and the seven years of the Books Not Bars movement, prove that California’s future is one where we no longer lock kids up to languish in cells that make rehabilitation an impossible feat, but rather where we invest in our youth and our communities so that everyone can live to their full potential. That future, a State without the dungeons of the DJJ, looks bright.  

Together, We Change the Game

By Jakada Imani

Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Time and again we see, when we come together and focus on a shared vision, we make a difference. Real progress only happens when people move together; that is why we call it a movement. On Tuesday, millions of us pulled together. Through our work with Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop, communities of color and our allies made history, again, by soundly defeating Prop 23.

Polling in early August told us that our communities could be tricked by the slick lies and dirty tricks of Prop 23 backers. That changed when Communities United launched its statewide mobilization drive reaching over 350,000 voters. The Dirty Energy Prop started to lose the minute our coalition of 130 justice-minded organizations took to the streets and air waves reminding voters that California is strongest when we choose health, jobs, and the planet- together. On Tuesday, Proposition 23 was soundly defeated in 8 of the 10 counties where we focused our work. Even the two most conservative counties –Kern and Orange– passed Prop 23 with a shockingly narrow margin.

Our strength as an organized movement is also seen in our partners Oakland Rising and the California Alliance who were key in the passing of Proposition 25 (a simple majority vote for the state budget) and threw down to defeat of Prop 23. Oakland Rising, an electoral alliance of which we are an anchor member, filled over 400 door knocking shifts in election season- the highest number in the State and IDed a record number of voters to stand with us. When we look at the results on all of California’s ballot measures, we can truly see that our collective effort on 23 and 25 made a difference — bucking the otherwise conservative trend of the night.

Nationally, even the successes of the Tea Party across the country, while a true setback, bear a valuable lesson for us — people working together change the game. Let us hold that truth in our hearts and know, more than ever, that our work to bring people together to make change is crucial in building a brighter future where all people and communities thrive.

Another critical lesson hammered home Tuesday night: people don’t base their votes on facts- if they did, millions of Americans would not vote against their own best interests. Our votes are more likely based on emotion, often fear or anger. With our economy in the dumps, people have a right to be angry and it’s easy for folks to be confused as to who is to blame- letting hate mongers point a blaming finger at everyone from immigrants to the Government to people who believe that everyone should have health care.

We, however, are not confused. The problem isn’t any one party or politician or even any one corporation. Instead of basing policies and our election day decisions on fear, we want to build a society where decisions are made based on love and our common concerns. When Proposition 23 first showed up, people feared they had to choose between good jobs and the environment. Fear drove support of the Dirty Energy Prop. We worked to trigger different emotions — the feelings of love and protection that folks of color and our allies have for our children, our environment and our economy. That helped us ensure that the future of California is one that puts people and the planet ahead of Big Oil’s profits.

Despite dismaying election results across the country, we celebrate that California swung back to its roots as a Blue State. As Meg Whitman learned, money alone can’t buy you victory. We look forward to working with Governor Elect Jerry Brown to implement AB32, close the state’s abusive and costly youth prison system, and bring peace and prosperity to all Californians.

The election, while a mixed bag of wins and losses, is just one short trailmarker in our march toward justice. Money and elections alone don’t determine the future. People-powered action, fueled by hope and the knowledge that things should and can be better, is how change happens. The Ella Baker Center knows the future is one where every person can thrive and we look forward to working with you to make that vision come true.

Poisonous Pals- Props 26 & 23

By Jakada Imani

Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

The California Ballot Measure process has become a roulette game for big corporations to gamble with the health of our citizens. Perfect examples of how this plays out are Proposition 26 and Proposition 23, deceptive initiatives bankrolled by major polluters, both would result in more pollution in our state, hurting all of us, but especially endangering low-income communities that suffer disproportionate exposure to toxins. High rates of pollution are to blame for the high rates of asthma, lung disease and cancer in Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino and African American communities.

It’s the duty of all Californians to say “No!” to big oil companies and other mega-corporations that seek to distort the truth, and abuse the ballot initiative system with their paid signature gatherers and advertising campaigns as slick and dirty as the oil coating beaches of Louisiana and Florida. It’s especially important to for voters from low-income communities to stand up for ourselves, for the lives we save may be our own children’s.

A long list of Californians- from politicians to CEOs to actors have come out against Prop 23, brought to you by Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero. The measure, properly derided as the Dirty Energy Proposition, would repeal California’s landmark climate change law.

The quieter, but equally poisonous friend of the Dirty Energy Prop, is Prop 26 being driven forward by Chevron with help from Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. Knowing that a team’s biggest cheerleaders are oil, tobacco, and alcohol should give anyone pause in wondering whose best interests are at the heart of the matter. It’s easy to see that profit, rather than people or our planet, would win should these propositions pass.

Proposition 26 is an-anti democratic measure that would protect polluters and purveyors of tobacco and alcohol from paying fees used to undo the harm caused by their products. These companies don’t want to pay to clean up their own messes–they expect you and me, the California taxpayer to eat the costs while they pocket the profit.  The independent nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office has warned us that Prop 26 would blow another ONE BILLION DOLLAR hole in the state budget.

Prop 26 would require a costly election in advance of any local government action to impose an appropriate fee. Two-thirds of local voters would have to agree to a fee on a company to pay, for example, air pollution mitigation near a chemical plant.  The State Legislature would also be prohibited from imposing an appropriate fee, on say whiskey to help pay for alcohol checkpoints, unless 2/3rd of lawmakers in each house agree. Considering the influence of corporate lobbyists, Prop 26 would make a new fee on polluters, tobacco or booze, about as likely as my 5-foot tall grandmother joining the U.S. Olympic basketball team. The same 2/3rds threshold has already crippled the state budget process, leaving California’s communities, schools and workforce to suffer.

If big oil and big tobacco doesn’t pay–who does?  We do, the regular taxpayers.  The budget suffers another billions dollar hole in health, education and welfare services, just to protect the profits of the richest corporations in the world.

Proposition 26 is opposed by health and justice organizations including the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and NAACP. We are standing with unions representing teachers, cops, firefighters and nurses, who rightfully worry about adding billion dollars to the state deficit, and the crippling effect on local government services, including health, education, drug treatment, police and fire.

Low-income communities of color, including immigrant communities, are hurt first and worst by pollution, global warming, booze, tobacco and gun selling. Voting No on Prop 23 ensures that California continues its leadership in clean air, climate action and green job creation while a No on 26 protects our right to make companies pay for poisoning our people or our planet.

Please join me in saying “No” on Propositions 26 and 23. Our votes must be the antidote to these poisonous pals.

The Color of Prop 23

by Jakada Imani

Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

All of the polling to date tells us that voters of color will be the deciding factor for Proposition 23, the Texas Oil company attack on California’s clean air law.  Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop, a deep and broad coalition has come together to make sure voters of color don’t fall for polluter-promoted lies.   Communities United is made up of the state’s most well respected social/environmental justice and community-based organizations.  Our core partners will focus in their own backyards.  It also happens to be in the very communities that are most negatively impacted by pollution and have the most to gain by protecting the state’s clean air laws.   Already, more than 80 Latino, African American and Asian/Pacific Islander Groups have come together to form this historic grassroots campaign.

Proposition 23 will hurt low-income communities and people of color first and worst. This Dirty Energy Proposition will guarantee more air pollution and fewer jobs, especially in communities already burdened by too much pollution and poverty.

Prop 23 is funded almost exclusively by two Texas oil companies.  Valero and Tesoro are among the nation’s worst toxic polluters in the state. Their refineries are listed among the top ten polluters in California, as detailed in a recently released report detailing the environmental violations and fines assessed against Valero and Tesoro refineries in the city of Wilmington, CA. I am always appalled to see the way that special interests try to buy the ballot box. Saying “No” to Proposition 23 tells Big Oil that California air is not for sale.

Contrary to the lies being peddled by the oil companies, Prop. 23 would kill jobs, not save them. Times are hard. Unemployment is up. And joblessness impacts folks of color at higher rates. But I also know that green jobs are the fasting growing part of the California economy. And that only a green economic recovery will truly build a California with more jobs and less pollution for all of us.

A poll last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found that voters of color were more likely than whites voters to be concerned about climate change and more likely to see air pollution as a problem. This is not surprising to me as a West Oakland resident, where every day I see first hand the impacts of pollution on brown and black folks. Low-income communities are facing epidemics of asthma and lung disease due to air pollution and Prop. 23 will ensure it stays that way.

Communities United is mounting an aggressive, statewide grassroots campaign to educate voters of color about the Dirty Energy Prop. In the coming weeks, we will be ramping up the campaign, with statewide days of action, the naming of the campaign’s co-chairs and The Clean Energy Hip-Hop Tour, a statewide music tour bringing together the arts, activism and education on college campuses to mobilize the young vote. We’ve been taking our message to media outlets that reach Asian/Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, and Latinos, to expose the lies behind Prop. 23.

Our recent experience with Prop 16, shows us that Californians know how to follow the money. Once we do, we will see that the supporters of Prop 23 are putting their profits before the health of our children or our economy.

If you are interested in doing something about this devastating proposition, please join us at http://communitiesagainstprop2…

Today’s Budget Revise is Yet Another Missed Opportunity to Invest in Communities

Today’s Budget Revise is Yet Another Missed Opportunity to Invest in Communities

Today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a revision of the budget plan he offered in January. And the ax, once again, will come down heaviest on our social safety net; however, it doesn’t have too be that way. The Governor and Legislature know that they face a shortfall of at least $20 billion – and yet have remained unwilling to look at a juvenile justice system that has failed us and needs major overhauling. The Ella Baker Center advocates that we close the state youth prisons, giving more money to county probation to provide secure services and still save the state close $200 million a year that could be reinvested in California schools.

Consider the following:

California spends over $436 million annually on the Division of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”) to lock-up 1400 youth. DJJ is a costly system with a 72% failure rate-meaning 72 percent of youth there will be rearrested shortly after release.

California is on track to spend over $300,000 per youth per year for lock up in the failed DJJ system. In comparison, a kid in a California public elementary or high school only merits a $8500 per year investment.

California spends more than $8.2 billion dollars locking up 150,000 adults, yet it only spends $5.5 billion to educate more than 650,000 student in California’s UC system and Cal State schools.

The latest round of state budget cuts will be heartbreaking after years of health and education cuts, budget gimmicks and expensive failed lock-em-up politicking. Things we value as a society-care for the elderly and the disabled, health care for sick kids, parks, and hometown government – will be gutted, while big prisons remains a sacred cow to fear-mongering politicians and spinmeisters.

The Governor proposes more cuts to our local schools, but wants to maintain decrepit youth prisons hidden in the countryside. At local schools, he would spend $8500 per kid per year, but he wants to spend 30 times that amount per young person in prisons that provide no education or rehabilitation What the Ella Baker Center and our allies have long been advising is the closing of the DJJ prisons– and the reallocation of a third of that budget to public schools, a third to counties for youth rehabilitation, and a third back to the crippled budget.

Over the last several months, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature could have found time to work out a plan that set priorities, cut back on bureaucracy and limited the damage to the most critical public programs. But they chose instead to hide their eyes and hope that revenues would turn around, sparing themselves the hard choices that are required from strong leaders.

When this revise comes out, everyone will feel this hit – from the struggling college students to families unable to afford insurance for their kids. Every spending cut will be a testimony to a failure of courageous leadership and further cement that the roots of California’s troubles are because of our ridiculous spending on prisons instead of people.

A Missed Opportunity: Economic Recovery Should Start With the Prisons

California is facing its worst fiscal crisis in decades, and a 3-judge federal panel just declared that it must reduce the prison population by nearly 50,000 people in order to provide constitutionally adequate medical care. But even with California’s prisons bursting at the seams, prison costs soaring past $10 billion dollars per year, and state coffers completely empty, most California legislators have their heads in the sand or their eyes on the next political prize.

First, state legislators put off until late August a vote on how to cut $1.2 billion dollars in corrections funding to address the state’s deficit.  Then a prison clean-up bill proposed by the Governor to achieve some of the required $1.2 billion in prison cuts fell victim to political cowardice. The State Senate approved a bill that would cut $524 million, but that bill was gutted in the Assembly. To blame are Assembly Republicans and Democrats alike, who are looking toward the 2010 election for Attorney General and other legislative seats.  The final bill, approved by the Senate late Friday, now provides only $325 million in savings — about one-fourth of the $1.2 billion needed in cuts to California’s national disgrace of a prison system.

This leaves a $700 – $900 million shortfall that will land on the backs of everyday Californians –making even deeper cuts to education and health care likely– unless the Governor acts.  

California is facing financial ruin. Its schools have been forced to make devastating cuts that could put a whole generation of children at a competitive disadvantage — and at higher risk of turning to crime.  The people who will be punished by the Legislature’s failure to act are the people most in need: the children and the poor, who depend on the state’s safety net. By refusing sensible reforms to save money in our corrections system, more children may lose their health care, more teachers may be laid off, and more health and safety programs may be cut.  Comprehensively addressing the corrections’ catastrophe is a necessary step toward stopping this downward spiral and beginning California’s economic recovery.

The Governor has blasted lawmakers as being “more worried about safe seats, than safe streets.”  But now that the Legislature dropped the ball, it has landed in his court.  The Governor still has the power to make smart cuts to the CDCR budget on his own, and the authority to implement the federal court decision to address the overcrowding crisis. The Governor must now assume responsibility for getting to $1.2 billion in prison cuts – as he promised to do. The governor should use his authority to make changes

The Governor should let the federal court ruling stand, and stand up as the advocate of the sensible criminal justice reform California so desperately needs.

NEW POLL: Californians Support Investment for “Green Jobs” Now

A groundbreaking new poll released today by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights finds that California voters strongly support public investments to create green jobs and prepare people to work in fields that improve the environment.  The results lend timely backing to legislation just introduced by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would invest $5 billion in funding for education and training to prepare students and workers for green careers.

(Poll findings can be found here: Ella Baker Center Green Jobs Poll (

Oakland-based Ella Baker Center commissioned a poll of 602 likely voters in California to test public opinion about “green jobs.” Of those polled, 80% said that it was either extremely or moderately important “to invest in creating green-collar jobs.”  Steinberg’s SB 675 — The Clean Technology and Renewable Energy Job Training, Career Technical Education and Dropout Prevention Act — would provide grants to build new schools and training facilities, upgrade existing ones, or purchase equipment to provide students and workers with the skills to succeed in green careers.

“This initiative will prepare Californians for our state’s clean energy future, including disadvantaged Californians who may not otherwise have pathways into good, green careers,” said Ian Kim, director of the Ella Baker Center’s Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.

Among the poll’s findings:

•    Voters overwhelmingly support investing in green-collar jobs.  80% of voters said that it was extremely or moderately important to invest in green jobs immediately.  Nearly three in four said they would support fast-tracked investments in solar, wind, and other clean energy projects, and tax breaks for small businesses that create green jobs.

•    Voters broadly support green jobs training and green vocational programs as a tool to provide new opportunities for current and future workers.  Nearly four in five voters said they would support providing green-collar job training for veterans and workers who have recently lost their jobs.  Nearly three in four said they would support green vocational education programs in middle schools, high schools, and community colleges that prepare students for green-collar jobs.

•    Voters are willing to pay for investment in green-collar jobs. Investing in green-collar jobs is so important to voters that they are willing to pass tax increases in order to fund it.  An overwhelming 72% support a small increase on the income tax of millionaires; more than two-thirds support taxing oil company profits; and a strong majority of voters support taxing sources of pollution that cause global warming.

Officials from David Binder Research who conducted the survey believe the numbers signify a cultural shift in the values of Californian voters.  “Survey results show that the current challenges facing the economy and the environment create a perfect storm of support for immediate investment in green-collar jobs,” said analyst Seiji Carpenter.

A new coalition, the Green Jobs Working Group, was recently convened to support bills like Steinberg’s SB 675.  This cross-sector alliance of labor, social justice, and environmental organizations is comprised of the following members: California Apollo Alliance, California Labor Federation, California State Building and Construction Trades Council, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club California.

“Senator Steinberg should be commended for calling for bold investments in green infrastructure and career technical education when California needs them the most,” said Phil Angelides, Chairman of the Apollo Alliance, which has been at the forefront of national, state, and local advocacy efforts to build a clean energy economy.

The focus in SB 675 on partnerships between educational institutions, apprenticeship programs, and businesses is particularly attractive to organized labor, which could see opportunities for new jobs in construction, energy efficiency retrofits, and renewable energy.  “In the building trades, we have long understood that protecting the environment, and building a strong economy that provides good jobs, go hand in hand,” said President Bob Balgenorth, State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. “Building trades unions and their workers look forward to working with Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg to move this groundbreaking legislation forward.”

The Ella Baker Center is an anchor organization of the Oakland Apollo Alliance, a coalition that helped create the Oakland Green Jobs Corps project. Part social enterprise, part think-tank, and part advocacy arm, the Ella Baker Center’s Green-Collar Jobs Campaign works for a green economy in California that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty.

For more information, visit

For poll results please click here, California Green Jobs Poll (