A Green New Deal for DC

The Green New Deal (GND) was introduced into U.S. political discourse by Howie Hawkins, Green Party (GP) candidate for New York governor in 2010 and championed by Dr. Jill Stein, GP candidate for President in 2012 and 2016.  The GND is now being vigorously discussed at all its scales, from the global, first put forward by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2009,  to the national (thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in particular) and especially at the state/city level, with invocative programs already in place such as DC’s clean energy legislation. So here are my thoughts as an environmental scientist, an ecosocialist and political activist on what a GND in DC could entail. Let’s have a discussion!

Since environmental rights are inseparable from social and economic rights, especially in DC with its history of environmental racism, high income and wealth inequality and continuing racial disparities, we should recognize the justice in the demands of Black Lives Matter DC, Stop Police Terror Project DC and Occupation Free DC . These campaigns are already confronting international issues, specifically by working to end DC police ties to the Israeli repressive apparatus and in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Israel (BDS) global movement. Mayor Bowser previously signed on to the initiative of 50 governors opposing BDS and is now going to Israel to encourage tech investment. A broad coalition opposes this trip.  

Besides the obvious fact we find the leadership center of imperial power in the Metro DC area, transnational capital is now a major player in this region’s real estate market, accelerating gentrification and displacement of long-term residents (Sernovitz, 2018; Lang, 2019).

As the nation’s first Human Rights City (2008), our elected government should fulfill its commitment by eliminating the human rights violations occurring in our community, starting with the most egregious, child poverty and homelessness (documentation here). Generating the needed revenue to accomplish this goal can come from ending subsidization of gentrification and displacement from our tax revenues and from DC’s more than ample tax base of wealthy residents and the big corporate sector, starting with recovering the huge federal Trump tax cuts for this goal (see Schwartzman, 2019). DC’s status as a Sanctuary City must be strengthened (Mijente, 2018).

Taking note that achieving DC Statehood would increase the possibility of fully realizing these objectives, nevertheless many initiatives should start now.

Here is my outline of steps to make a GND in DC a reality:

  • Provide state-of-the-science green public/social housing and renovated vacant family housing for all residents in need, at cost less than 30% of their income.
  • Curb air pollution and carbon emissions by building on our great achievement, the Clean Energy legislation, by accelerating the transition to fully renewable energy supplies (wind and solar) addressing the transportation sector: Fund MWATA by progressive taxation of regional wealthy residents and businesses profiting from Metro proximity and a DC congestion charge in the downtown business district, moving rapidly to free fully electric Metro/bus service and a car-free downtown (Note that such a congestion charge program is achievable even without statehood, while the latter would make possible agreements for progressive reciprocal taxation of commuting workers in DC and its surrounding jurisdictions).
  • Take over utilities supplying electricity and natural gas for public ownership, create “DC Public Power”, a possibility which gained attention during the struggle to block the Exelon takeover of Pepco.
  • Recognizing the problems of the fire hazard and its greenhouse gas footprint from leakage to the environment, implement a rapid phase out of natural gas use in DC, replacing it as energy source with electricity supplies for cooking and heating (heat pumps) generated by renewable energy.
  • Promote a regional coastal ocean wind farm.
  • Increase budget subsidy to urban farming and green manufacture cooperatives.
  • Implement a DC Public Bank by 2020: the Mayor should release the feasibility study.
  • Implement 100 percent recycling of food waste, convert to compost for DC’s urban farms.
  • Implement comprehensive apprenticeship programs in DC high schools and in high-poverty neighborhoods for 21st Century employment, especially in the renewable energy and agroecology/organic agriculture sectors.

All of these goals will need a broad bottom-up mobilization of the residents most impacted, DC’s working class along with their allies, and must be planned and implemented by the same.

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