Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Something is wrong with our system.

Last night I got the privilege to listen to Van Jones speak here in Portland. It was an SRO crowd which was amazing given that his speech was at the exact same time as the State of the Union address by President Obama.

I arrived early and sat next to a black man about my same age. His name was Craig and we had a super conversation waiting for the program to start. Craig had come to hear Van talk about green jobs as he was desperately looking for work. Here was an American who wanted to contribute and yet, couldn't find any paid work.

Craig's pain was palpable. His pain is no different than millions and millions of other Americans, from every corner of our country.

Everywhere I look I see needs.

Our infrastructure is failing. Our bridges desperately need repair. Many here in Oregon won't withstand the next major earthquake we all know is coming. Our Sellwood Bridge has been closed to bus traffic for years and rates a 2 out of 100 possible points for structural integrity. You think we might be better off fixing it?

Schools, everywhere except newer suburban schools, are in need of significant improvements and upgrades. My daughter attends a Portland HS that is nearly 100 years old.

I'm guessing that more than 80 percent of our housing would benefit from energy efficiency improvements that would save money in the long run. We could put a million people to work within the next 12 months weatherizing homes using a revenue neutral model that is win/win/win for all.

We need more teachers and smaller class sizes. We need more opportunities for our youth and less prisons (American prisons now hold 1/4th of the world's prison population. Does that seem right in the Land of the Free?)

We need more caregivers and support for the caregivers we have.

We need programs for our returning veterans who come home from service with too few opportunities and too little support.

At the same time, everywhere I look I see people who need jobs and want to help.

It is a failure of our system and our imagination that we can't put these two needs together.

We are not some third world country without resources and imagination. We can fix this problem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the weatherization of homes under a revenue neutral model. Other than this, the title may as well be called "problems".