2011: It's not environment vs. jobs, but rather environment = jobs, says activist/politician

 EASTSOUND, ORCAS ISLAND – Everyone knows Washington’s budget crunch is going to be really severe come next spring. But it wasn’t until I heard state Sen. Kevin Ranker’s take on the situation the other day – complete with new numbers – that I realized how impossible it will be to realistically expect money for enhanced environmental protections in 2011.

Addressing members of the volunteer but quasi-governmental Marine Resource Committees of north Puget Sound counties, the San Juan County Democrat laid out in stark terms why it will be so hard to cut $5 billion from a $31 billion state budget. That alone would represent a 16 percent reduction from an already-decimated budget. But it’s actually worse than it sounds. Much, much worse.

Here’s why: Of that $31 billion, some $23 billion comes from categories that can’t really be reduced, Ranker said: debt service, Medicaid, prisons, pensions, transportation, the capital budget and the constitutionally protected state contribution to public education. (Now, the Sunday Seattle Times seemed to anticipate efforts to make some fairly substantial cuts there anyway. Ranker seemed to have access to newer and scarier numbers, though.)

What does that leave? Three areas get the remaining $8 billion of the state budget: Higher education, government services and natural resources (a.k.a. environment). “Government services” sounds like a likely place to cut until you understand that it includes money for senior citizens, health care, the needy and so forth.

 So $5 billion – and it could grow to $5.2 billion, Ranker says – is supposed to be cut out of $8 billion for those three areas. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Said Ranker:

Can "Eco-Industrial Districts" help make Seattle sustainable?

A potentially far-reaching step toward making Seattle and its economy truly sustainable went unrecognized by news media this week: King County declaring its intention to partner with the city to create "Eco-Industrial Districts." A likely first candidate: The Duwamish River corridor in south Seattle, home of a Superfund site but also some grand visions by environmentalists, community activists and others.

The King County Council, prodded by councilman Larry Phillips, passed a resolution Sept. 13 that was welcomed by Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin:

"Seattle’s industrial core is a unique and extremely valuable resource and critical to the long term economic health of the region. The City Council’s interest in (eco-industrial districts) has a dual purpose, both to strengthen our industrial core and to improve the environmental quality of the Duwamish river corridor."

It's been a few years since the city council passed an ordinance intended to help preserve easily gentrified industrial areas. It's a threat we explored in our 2007 series on the Duwamish. But the city hasn't done a whole lot since then to proactively encourage high-wage industry to stay in town.

The whole idea of these eco-industrial districts is that new and cleaner industry can dovetail with efforts to green up -- literally and figuratively -- some of the city's grittier and yet economically important areas. Here's how the county's press release conceputalizes them:

Simple math: Health care = jobs

This is simple math: Health care equals jobs. And the new health care reform law means even more jobs. In many communities across the United States, the health care industry is the region’s top employer. Indeed, if you put this in a global perspective, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom now employs 1 in every 23 workers in that country, some 1.3 million people. (The NHS is the third largest employer in the world, only ranking behind the Chinese army and India Rail.)

The numbers in Indian Country show that same kind of growth. Look at the figures before President Johnson’s Great Society (and the expansion of federal programs):  The Bureau of Indian Affairs employed 16,035 full time employees in 1969, while the Indian Health Service employed 5,740 people. That trend is now reversed. In 2009 the BIA employed 8,257 full time workers and the IHS had grown to 15,127 employees. These are just the number of federal employees, because tribes or organizations administer roughly half of the Indian health system. 2.png" style="width: 462px; height: 281px;" />

The demand for health care workers in Indian Country represents a public policy paradox: We need jobs in communities where the official unemployment rate is about 50 percent and yet the Indian Health Service reports shortages of health professionals.

The IHS describes its employment situation this way:

“The physician vacancy rate now stands at approximately 21%, and the average length of service of the approximately 800 federally employed physicians in Indian health is 10 years.

Make jobs, make schools green - Washington lawmakers think it's a win-win

Olympia- The  House passed its first bill of the session this week --  a measure that would ask voters to decide whether to create jobs by using $860 million in bonds in order to make schools more energy efficient.

JenniferThe bill “catalyzes probably about 2.5 billion dollars in work, which gives you 38,000 jobs, and will account in $190 million dollars in savings to the taxpayer every single year,” explained Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, the bills' creator and primary sponsor. If approved by the Senate, the measure, House Bill 2561, would need voter approval in November.

The bill would allow schools and universities to compete for $860 million in grants in order to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. The state will provide the money by selling bonds with a lifespan of 20 years at a cost of around 1.5 billion, which includes principle and interest. Dunshee projects that the cost of the bonds will be recouped by way of job creation, tax revenue, and reduced energy costs.

But with Washington's unemployment rate up to 9.5 percent in December and the state facing enormous budget cuts, the choice for some lawmakers boils down to creating jobs or saving money, while the energy efficiency of the schools lies somewhere in between.

“We need jobs now!”exclaimed an impassioned Rep. Kathy Haigh, D- Shelton, to her colleagues during the House floor debate.

But Rep.

Obama's people make the case that fighting climate change = jobs

Our good friends at commissioned this story today. Hope you like it:

By Robert McClure

SEATTLE—You could tell by the way Obama administration officials pep-talked a roomful of clean-energy businesspeople today that the White House realizes it hasn’t convinced Americans that “tackling climate change = ending the recession.”

rm iwest mugAgain and again EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Undersecretary Kristina Johnson pounded on the jobs issue at a pre-Copenhagen climate talks event designed to showcase how energy efficiency, the smart grid and renewable energy can boost employment rates.

“We’re hearing a whole host of reasons today to support American clean energy. There are national security reasons. There are environmental reasons, and there are public-health reasons,” Jackson said. “But perhaps the most compelling reason at this moment and in this place is the economy.”

The very setting of the clean energy forum fairly screamed “JOBS!” It was a nearly-finished “innovation center” that is leasing space for startups, built by McKinstry Co. beside the firm’s south Seattle offices. McKinstry is all about energy efficiency in buildings (which is where something like a third to two-fifths of our energy use occurs, depending on how you’re counting).

And, get this: Even as the recession roared ahead into high gear earlier this year, McKinstry announced plans to hire 500 people.

That can happen more, Jackson said.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Jobs? Not so much stimulus

Jobs in Colorado, not a pretty picture. Five months into the federal stimulus program jobs program, the state can link fewer than 1,000 new full-time positions to stimulus money. That's out of the 59,000 jobs the program is supposed to create or save in Colorado by the end of 2010, writes Greg Griffin in the Denver Post. So far, the biggest source of employment is a summer jobs program that has placed 2,946 kids, but because the jobs are temporary, they add up to fewer than 500 full-time-equivalent positions. Meanwhile,  the Post's Colorado Economy blog notes that Latino workers have a higher unemployment rate in Colorado and several other western states, and cites state labor experts pointing to large job losses in manufacturing and construction as the reason why.