Green teamwork

Jeff vonKaenel

Though they may not look like it, U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson are actually twins separated at birth. They are working from two different angles to make Sacramento the greenest city in the country.

Matsui is the consummate inside player. She sits on both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Rules Committee in Congress. These influential positions, along with her relationship with Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, put her in a great position to understand and influence the evolving Barack Obama energy strategy. In Sacramento, she is bringing together private businesses, educational institutions, utility companies and government agencies in a coalition to implement the federal energy plan. This has already resulted in hundreds of millions of federal dollars flowing into Sacramento to work on green technology and energy conservation.

Just as venture capital helped develop Silicon Valley, these federal stimulus dollars will help jump-start the green technology sector in Sacramento. For example, SMUD, Sacramento State and the Los Rios Community College District received a Recovery Act grant of $128 million for their smart-grid project. Another $4 million in grant money was allocated to various apprenticeship and training programs.

Our other twin, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, admits he’s not an environmental wonk, but President John F. Kennedy didn’t know much about rocket science, yet he got a man to the moon. Johnson has established the mayor’s Greenwise Sacramento initiative, with an impressive leadership team. Over the next several months, he wants to develop action plans for Sacramento in five areas: energy, waste and recycling, water and nature, urban design and green building, and green and clean technology. In other words, in a few months, he wants to put together a plan that would normally take a government agency 10 years to create.

Wow. As Mayor Johnson says, “This is a bold vision.” I say this may be so crazy it just might work. In the newspaper business, we know that there’s nothing like a deadline to make things happen.

At our last Greenwise meeting, 15-year-old Alec Loorz, the founder of Kids vs. Global Warming, spoke about Kennedy’s vision of putting a man on the moon. That took eight years. Alec argues that if we can do that, we can successfully fight global warming.

We’ve got Matsui advocating for us in Washington, D.C., and bringing the federal vision home to implement. And we’ve got Johnson building a green team from the ground up, with a goal of getting the whole community involved to help the “least among us.” These twins, separated at birth, make a powerful combination.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.