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Liveblog: The Task Force's first meeting

Summary: 
The Vice President and his team are in Philadelphia this morning for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, with a focus on a green jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class.
The Vice President and his team are in Philadelphia this morning for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, with a focus on a green jobs as a pathway to a strong middle class. Greg Nelson from the White House Office of Public Liaison is attending the meeting and will be filing updates throughout the day.
 
11:25 a.m.: The event site in Philly is hopping. We just arrived, and students and attendees greeted the motorcade with lots of excitement. The crowd arrived early and is starting to file in, a beautiful mix of community members, labor members, small business and green business owners, and environmental groups.

11:53 a.m.: The line is reaching way out the door, giving folks a chance to meet each other and tell their stories. Just met Jim Bauer, who is the local United Steelworkers (USW) President at the Gamesa Wind Turbine facility in Fairless Hills, PA. Jim worked for US Steel at the same site for 25 years, but the plant closed. When it opened up three years ago making turbines, Jim returned to the facility and joined the machine shop. They've cranked out 509 turbines so far. Jim says optimism has returned because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

12:08 p.m.: We're just about ready to get started here. Amazing stories at every turn -- people are hurting, but the optimism around green jobs is everywhere. Dave Johnson of the Laborers Union has been working with Newark community groups on a pilot project to help train community members to weatherize local homes. It is a win, win, win -- better, healthier homes for the homeowner, long-term skills and careers for residents, and reduced energy use and carbon for the world.

(12:21 p.m.: Ed. note: The Task Force has just made public its first staff report, "Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class," which you can read in full.)

12:37 p.m.: And we're underway. Vice President Biden kicked things off with a rundown of why this is so important -- in many states, green companies are some of the few that are hiring. We need to create more of these opportunuities, and -- reflected by the breadth of the audience today, people are hungry for it. Electeds, business leaders, labor members, community members, students, faculty, all wanting to get to work to make this happen.

12:44 p.m.: Just as impressive as the crowd is the panel -- the VP, 6 cabinet secretaries (including newly confirmed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the author of the Green Jobs Act), and senior White House staff. Lots of praise for Senator Specter (R-PA) for making so many green job opportunities possible with his vote on the recovery act. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) is talking about the importance of the energy efficiency components of the recovery act, and how that will help cities like Philadelphia.

12:46 p.m.: VP Biden just plugged the AStrongMiddleClass.gov and invited attendees to make sure they participate and contribute to the conversation even after today.

12:50 p.m.: First presentation is from John Podesta from the Center of American Progress, then it will be Fred Krupp from the Environmental Defense Fund and Van Jones from Green for All. You can check out Krupp's presentation and handout, as well as a video from Jones.

1:01 p.m.: Van's message is about providing opportunity and hope, and the moral responsibility to make sure this green wave is one that lifts all boats -- "a green economy that MLK would be proud of." The way to do that, he says, is to make sure green jobs crop up not just in rural and suburban areas, but in urban areas, too. To great applause: "There is a moral principle to green the ghetto first ... to give young people the chance to put down that handgun and pick up a caulking gun."

1:05 p.m.: Van is describing the impact of opportunity and inspiration. The green dollars in the opportunity act are 'the hardest working dollars the federal government has ever spent....We need a new commitment, we need a new math, and we need a new ethic. And that's how we fight poverty and pollution at the same time." And for his own inspiration and push for opportunity, Van gets a standing ovation.

1:20 p.m.: "when I see less carbon, I also see more jobs." That's from Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, which has invested a lot of time and energy into the details of how to make green jobs a reality. Fred is taking the remarkable vision of Van, and breaking it down step-by-step back through the supply chain: from end products (like solar panels or efficient windows or LEDs) to the components to the original raw materials. Where and how those supply chains get developed -- and the jobs each step in the supply chain represents -- is what will determine how well we can live this vision.

1:27 p.m.: Members of the Task Force are now asking questions. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asked about gender in green jobs.Van answered by talking about where green jobs are headed: not just solar panel installations, but also managerial jobs, IT jobs, marketing jobs, and education jobs. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack mentioned the USDA programs supporting green jobs, and how popular and effective it is. He then asked about mayors, and what we can ask of mayors to help get this done. John Podesta answered: it's about scale. We need to create markets that can build and support this massive task and opportunity ahead of us.

1:38 p.m.: Energy Secretary Chu asked: with all the energy efficiency money in the ARRA, how do we help spend it in a way that greats good jobs? Van: The moment is now. The money is here. Now it is about doing it right. Because we could do this poorly and wrong. But let's do it well and right, by:
  1. Using our existing workforce development mechanisms, community colleges, and labor apprenticeship programs.
  2. Sticking to High standards. The best trained workers in this area are our labor members. Help them bring it to fruition.
Podesta added that we also need to leverage private financing, especially to reach neighborhoods and homes.

1:44 p.m.: HUD Secretary Donovan: Part of the new math is about how we can leverage energy savings to help finance energy efficiency for individual homeowners. Where can we get the best data and thinking? Van: Great work at MIT. They've been working with unions, labor, and other partners on a program called Emerald Cities.

1:48 p.m.: Education Secretary Duncan: How do we systemically give opportunities to students who need them? Too often, it seems like it relies on a remarkable social entrepreneur or non-profit to open those eyes and those doors. Van: starts early, in the curriculum. The greener, the more successful. 

1:54 p.m.: Moving on to panel 2. Coming to the mics are: Governor Rendell (D-PA), Mayor Nutter (D-PA), Leo Gerard (United Steelworkers), Mark Edlin (President, Gerding-Edlin), Cecilia Estolano (CEO of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Authority)

2:02 p.m.: After a quick break, the Task Force jumps right back into some heavy content. Gov. Rendell leads off. As a Governor, he makes the important note that much of the innovation in this area has been in the States. Rendell has 3 points he suggests the panel address:
  1. create markets through renewable portfolio standards
  2. direct incentives and support
  3. use the power of the government as a consumer to make change

2:16 p.m.: And we finally get to hear from the host -- a city that Nutter himself called "stimulus-ready." Nutter is making green jobs a major focus in his economic development work in Philly. As he said in his testimony, whether you have a GED or a PHD, we've got a green job for you in Philly.

A bit of news: the Knight Foundation is granting $1.1 million to the city's Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) to train workers for green jobs, in collaboration with the mayor's office.

2:20 p.m.: Nutter: "'Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States, and we plan to be the first capital of green jobs."

2:30 p.m.: One of the key partners in making green jobs a reality has been Labor, in particular the United Steelworkers of America. USW President Leo Gerard has been a visionary on this issue, and has been building coalitions with enviro groups for years -- he's a founder of the Apollo Alliance and the Blue Green Alliance. President Gerard's members are truly the engine behind green jobs -- 2700 people showed up at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference this month. They are the machinists at Gamesa's wind turbine facilities, the glassmakers in window factories, and the line workers in battery manufacturing. And right now, some of those jobs are in danger because the markets have dried up. But the Recovery Act has a chance to change that. Let's make it count.

He's also make a big commitment; that the Blue Green Alliance is going to develop a Green Jobs scorecard to help evaluate the impact of projects paid for by the Recovery Bill. A great addition. (Check out President Gerard's presentation.)

2:42 p.m.: Cecilia Estolano is talking about the work that she and Mayor Villaraigosa have been doing in Los Angeles -- alongside now CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley (and LA's Vice Mayor for Energy and Environment). LA has been at the forefront of many of these conversations, with real results. Estolano ended by saying: 'Thank you, Mr. Vice President, it is so nice to -- finally -- have a partner in the White House." 

2:50 p.m.: One of the healthiest (and at times very funny) undercurrents of today's event has been each speaker claiming that his home town or state is the greenest. It came to a head with Mark Edlen (of Gerding Edlen's), who claimed Portland and Oregon are the greenest -- highest rate of renewables, highest hybrid car ratio, etc. That prompted Estalano to stand up for LA, Nutter for Philly, and Rendell for PA. VP Biden finally brokered a truce by calling the competition "healthy" but maybe best left for after the meeting.

2:54 p.m.: Mark Edlen talking now. He and his company -- Portland, OR-based architecture firm Gerding-Edlen -- in a lot of ways created an industry and market for green city living. He believes they can go further -- zero impact buildings. Gerding-Edlin just completed a 400-thousand square foot building that is off the sewer grid, and in fact puts water back into the system.

Mark also talked about a new initiative by Governor Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) called The Oregon Way. Gov K has brought together a public-private board to evaluate potential projects to be paid for by recovery funding -- and to rate them based on their impact in jobs and sustainability.

3:14 p.m. -- Biden wrapping up now. In addition to running the Middle Class Task Force, he's also the lead for Recovery Act Implementation, and he drew an important connection between green jobs, the middle class, and the Recovery Act. The act has tons of opportunity, he says, but a lot of hard work lies ahead in execution: openness, transparency, and impact -- it can be either a "platform or a tombstone." So let's get it right.

Paraphrasing: Green jobs are not autonmatically good jobs without fair pay and strong standards...So let's be level-headed about this, and make sure we do it right, while making sure we acheive our first goal of directly impacting the economy. And do it with openness, transparency, and with accountability.

4:21 p.m. -- (Ed. Note: Other big news today: Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced a major partnership between their departments that will use $16 billion in funds from the ARRA to help create green jobs. The high-level interagency task force will "make it much easier for families to weatherize their homes and spur a new home energy efficiency industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs.")

4:50 p.m. -- (Ed.Note: The Vice President's full remarks from the opening of the meeting are now available.)