WWS ugrad task force on green jobs policy presents findings to Representatives Holt, Maloney and Waxman
By Virginia Maloney
The policy task force is one of the most distinctive aspects of the undergraduate program in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In each task force, a small number of juniors work together with one or two senior commissioners led by a faculty member to address a current public policy issue. The task force creates a final report with policy recommendations that are presented to appropriate policy practitioners at the end of the semester.
Julian Zelizer, professor in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of History, directed the task force entitled, “Working Green: A Smarter Strategy for Green Jobs Policy.” Students examined several major aspects of green jobs policy in the United States. Topics included reforms for solar and wind renewable energy, research institutions, the current Weatherization Assistance Program, public transportation, and green job training.
Professor Zelizer arranged for several speakers to present to the task force throughout the semester. Sarah Shapiro and Jeanne Fox presented first. Ms. Shapiro is an attorney, a LEED Accredited Professional, and the Sustainability Coordinator for Obermayer’s Sustainability Initiative. Ms. Fox is President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and a member of the Governor’s Cabinet. The class met with energy policy experts Richard Wright, who served in President Carter’s administration, as Chief of Staff to the Governor of New Jersey and as an author of the New Jersey Energy Plan as well as Kenny Esser, former Governor Corzine's Energy Advisor. Ann O’Leary, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic and Family Security, and Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone visited as well. Niklas Peters commented, “It was great to meet with the guest speakers who are truly experts in the field which we were studying and ask them questions to help us form our recommendations. I really enjoyed the opportunity to examine an issue in which I'm very interested and give relevant policy recommendations for it."
The recommendations of the task force included: a purchasing agreement with wind turbine foreign manufacturers to start the wind offshore industry; a feed-in-tariff in New Jersey to encourage rapid investment in the solar and wind industry; centralized and specific research institutions to aid with research coordination and technology gaps; reforms to the Weatherization Assistance Program to properly measure the organization’s impact and allocate funding most effectively; an influx of funding to the Transportation Trust Fund to cover current public transportation debts and restart the capital program; and the creation of a four-year Federal Green Consultant Fellowship Program to address deficiencies in the labor-market data and to establish green training partnerships business, labor unions and state-funded education institutions.
On December 11th, the task force presented these findings to leading policy makers in Washington, D.C. John Lawrence, Chief of Staff for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), discussed the task forces’ proposals. The meeting took place in the historic “Board of Education” room where Speaker Sam Rayburn and leading Democrats met in the 1940’s and 1950’s to both socialize and strategize.
The students then presented to Phil Barnett ’79, Chief Counsel for Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Greg Dotson, the Chief Environment and Energy Counsel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and John Jimison, Senior Energy Counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee. Representative Waxman attended part of the meeting. He complimented the students on their work and noted the urgency of constructing an effective green jobs policy. The final meeting included Representative Maloney (D-NY), Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) and his Chief of Staff, Christopher Hartman.
Rohit Gawande, one of the task force juniors, said, “Our task force provided a great opportunity for us to see that today's policy makers are very much interested in our topic. Presenting in Washington was an enlightening experience that showed us an example of how policy is discussed at the highest levels.” Max Branzburg commented, “Walking the halls of Congress was a tremendous opportunity in and of itself; walking the halls of Congress, contributing novel policy initiatives to our nation's leaders, however, was truly inspiring. No amount of coursework can remind us of our commitment to public service the way our task force experience in DC did.” Tucker Willsie said, “The task force was a great experience. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to present my paper’s findings to those who could implement our proposals.”