As you know, 2021 is general election year in Virginia. One of the progressives we're interested in is Hannah Kinder, who's running for the House of Delegates in District 89, representing a part of Norfolk. Kinder graduated with a degree in Evolutionary/Environmental Biology & Ecology, and has worked professionally in the non-profit sector since she was 18. As you might expect from a candidate endorsed by Blue America, she is passionate about racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice. The 89th district is very blue and primarily young and impoverished (79.8% earn below $15,000 annually). The district has stood up for Democrats regardless of the candidates' ideology, backing even conservatives like Tim Kaine (85% in 2018), Ralph Northam (83% in 2017), Hillary Clinton (80% in 2016), Mark Warner (79% in 2014), Terry McAuliffe (79% in 2013). These are not Democrats who have addressed the real lives of the people who live in the 89th district. The current delegate (since 2017), Jay Jones, is running for Attorney General (and simultaneously for reelection). Republicans don't field candidates in this district.
Despite Norfolk considering itself in a city with opportunity, "people," Kinder told me, "are continually underserved and lacking care." She is proudly running on a progressive agenda, hoping to not only bring change to her community but to the entire commonwealth. Her key concerns are community care, equitable access to education, gun violence, climate change, economic and housing justice, and protecting animals, workers, and communities impacted by big ag. "Sitting at an elevation of 7 ft.," she noted, "Norfolk residents are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which the state has done little to address." She is a passionate advocate for the Green New Deal and the Virginia version which has been introduced and is pending. I asked Kinder to introduce herself with a guest post. If you like what she has to say below, please consider contributing to her campaign by clicking on the 2021 legislative thermometer on the right. Virginia's Democratic bench has been incredibly conservative. The Commonwealth is a politically mature Democratic bastion for it to be pulling more towards Democrats like Lee Carter, Elizabeth Guzmán, the just-elected Candi King, Ibraheem Samirah, Sam Rasoul, Matt Rogers and Hannah Kinder.
Virginia Needs the Green New Deal
-by Hannah Kinder
Virginia is a radically diverse state. We have fisheries and industrial farms along the coastlines and coal mines in the Appalachian region. We have large, bustling cities with bookends of rural, underserved communities. We have progressives, centrists, and extremely conservative citizens. We are one of the wealthiest states in the country with one of the top public education systems, and yet we have people who are generationally underserved, undereducated, and vote seemingly against themselves in elections. All of these are notable, imperative concerns for our Commonwealth with no quick or easy answer. However, Delegate Sam Rasoul’s Virginia Green New Deal bill has made it to the Appropriations committee and, with the General Assembly reconvening this week, we have a hope of getting this bill passed in the House of Delegates before being sent to the State Senate.
Many have heard of the Green New Deal. If you’re like me, you have probably fought over it at the holiday table with more conservative or centrist family members. And you may be thinking, “I thought the federal government has to pass this?” And you would be partially right. There is a federal version of the Green New Deal, but we don’t have to wait for federal action to make changes in our states! The VA Green New Deal is a bill that would allow our Commonwealth to begin the process of a sustainable and just transition as soon as 2021.
So what would this look like?
There are different sections to the bill, but there are a few I want to specifically point out here: fossil fuels, education, and transportation.
Fossil fuels: The proposed bill would put a moratorium (temporary halt) on building new fossil fuel infrastructure starting in 2021 while rapidly transitioning Virginia to clean renewable energy sources. This means that there would be no approvals for new projects including import or export terminals for fossil fuel, pipelines, refinery or exploration of fossil fuels, or electricity-generating facilities that rely on fossil fuels.
As I mentioned above, there are a wide array of communities in Virginia. While I now live in a larger urban area on the coast, I grew up in the mountains with most of my family heavily reliant on the coal industry. In Virginia, there are now more solar energy jobs than coal-mining jobs, and the divide continues to grow. Over the years, I have seen their community disintegrate with people losing jobs, income, and stability. With that comes loss of hope, feeling discarded by politicians and local leaders, and misguided anger towards progressive policies seeking to eradicate fossil fuels. But central to all of this being resolved is...
Education: The VA Green New Deal outlines specific measures to provide education and transition for workers currently related to the fossil fuel industry. These include transition assistance, job training and higher education programs, development of trade programs in high schools and community colleges, and scholarships or loan forgiveness for people working in the clean energy sector.
Transportation: The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to climate change due to its enormous carbon emissions. But everyone has to use mechanical transport at some time. The VA Green New Deal proposes to improve public transport systems (both in accessibility and emissions), addressing school bus emissions, and advancing electric vehicles away from fossil fuel-based energy sources.
All of this work would be meaningless if it did not also work to support underserved communities, specifically those that are primarily low-income and black. We know that communities of color are disproportionately targeted by industries like fossil fuels and big ag. They go on to suffer the pollution, health, and economic effects of these industries for generations. Environmental policy must be tied to environmental justice, and the VA Green New Deal works to ensure this is central to every piece of the legislation. In addition to the sections mentioned above, the bill seeks to address poverty and systemic racism as an integral part of the bill.
We can secure a brighter, cleaner, more equitable future. We can do it now! Please call your local representatives and encourage them to pass this bill for your children, your community, and your future.