VOICES--At the beginning of June, a little-known but critical election will be held in a convention hall in San Francisco. This balloting — for chair of the California Democratic Party will determine, among other important issues, whether our state continues on the path to being the world leader in green energy or whether we revert to our dirty energy past.
The great news is that the vast majority of Californians want our state to be powered by green energy.
There is joyful talk of a future where fuel costs zero because it comes from the sun, where any job connected with clean energy production is a job that pays a solidly middle-class wage, and where it’s possible to enjoy a skyline not blurred by toxic pollution. That should be our future. Californians deserve clean air and high technology jobs and the ability to have a higher quality of life and a sustainable planet at the same time. The United Nations has told us, and most climate scientists agree, that we have less than 12 years to transition away from our polluting ways.
It’s scary news, but this is reasonably good news for California, assuming we act now. We can, with the right leadership and focus, not only lead the world in this effort, but give every Californian better opportunities in life in the process.
Back to the election in June: Part of the bad news about this election is that you have, on average, only a 0.0001 percent chance of being able to legally cast a ballot because this election is only open to a few thousand delegates of the California Democratic Party, voting for a new party chair. Why bring it up if you can’t vote? Because the outcome of this election is so critical, and although you don’t have a vote, you have a substantial stake, since Democrats hold governing and decision-making authority in our state and our state is the fifth largest economy on the world.
There are talented candidates in the race who are motivated to help transition California away from dirty energy as quickly as possible. Sadly, there is one candidate who has spent his career going in the opposite direction and helping to pollute the California we love.
Rusty Hicks, the head of the L.A. Federation of Labor, who oversees many of the unions that have great paying but horribly polluting jobs such as running our polluting electricity generating plants, maintaining our toxic gas fields, oil drilling and fracking and even jobs making polluting plastics from poisonous chemicals has announced he is running.
Rusty Hicks is extremely powerful and his unions have pumped millions into the campaigns of politicians across the state. He may talk about green energy, but his actions and part of his paychecks come from dirty energy.
Let's be clear, Rusty and those who make their living from pollution aren't inherently bad. Most are just regular people trying to support their families and Rusty has done an impressive amount to support his members. But he and they have an obligation to their families and the rest of us, to quickly switch from helping to make pollution to being success stories of how pollution can be stopped.
Additionally, he wants to be head of the strongest and largest state Democratic Party in the country. Yet, he and the unions he shepherds have actively supported Republican candidates over Democratic candidates, even in solidly Democratic areas. It is fine to support conservative Republican candidates as a union leader. But it is NOT acceptable to put even a single Republican into office in Democratic-leaning areas and expect to be head of the Democratic Party of the state of California.
Among the thousands of delegates who will vote in June, there is palatable fear of power like his. Because every vote is made public, fear of reprisals is real for people of good conscience who might vote against him. Union members risk losing their seats as delegates if they vote against him and even non-union delegates hoping to seek higher office may find their chances limited by the far reach of potential retaliation.
Still, every delegate has a much greater responsibility: to all Californians and the planet we live on. We have an opportunity and responsibility to vote for a California without dirty energy.
Rusty Hicks should drop out of the election for chair of the Democratic Party of California and instead focus 100% of his time and effort in helping his union members transition to high-paying green energy jobs. I, and many other Californians, are willing to help Rusty with this transition to high-paying jobs that protect humans and our planet instead of poisoning them.
(Darrell Park is a delegate to the California Democratic Party and, as a Democrat, was the losing candidate in 2016 for the LA County Board of Supervisors 5th District.The views expressed are those of Mr. Park.)