Skip to content

Former Obama official weighs in on Richmond

on April 19, 2010

Former Obama Administration environmental expert Anthony “Van” Jones headlined a star-studded – and controversial – speaker list at Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s reelection kickoff party Saturday.

Jones, who now works as a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress, wowed the crowd of about 200 with a calm but pointed speech. Jones resigned in September amid a firestorm of Republican and conservative media outrage over his affiliations with left-leaning groups and for signing a 2004 petition questioning the veracity of government accounts of the 9-11 attacks.

“For those of us who are champions for a green economy, there is no more important race in the country than this race,” Jones said minutes after his speech, which received a standing ovation.

McLaughlin is the only Green Party mayor of a city of more than 100,000 in the United States. She won her office by a razor-thin margin in 2006, and has antagonized some of Richmond’s deepest-pocketed local interests. She could face stiff competition this year from a widely-rumored challenge by City Councilman Nat Bates.

The featured speakers, Jones and immigration activist Nativo Lopez, may be seen as a signal that McLaughlin is banking on a campaign strategy that appeals to her core constituencies.

McLaughlin herself sounded a forceful tone Saturday.

“Anything short of strict, verifiable regulations to protect public health is unacceptable,” McLaughlin said. “And a sufficient economic recovery necessitates that the wealthiest pay their fair share of taxes.”

McLaughlin was speaking specifically of Chevron Corp., the city’s largest taxpayer and one of her consistent opponents. Chevron has a history of providing support to candidates in local elections. McLaughlin also opposes a potential casino on Point Molate, a former Naval fuel depot. That project that is backed by influential developers.

“The idea that a place where you have a Chevron, you also have a (McLaughlin), that’s actually America,” Jones said. “That’s where we’re going, and I think it’s important that we make sure that we keep that leadership in place.”

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin opposes projects to build a casino at Point Molate and to refine more crude oil at Chevron Corp.

Although McLaughlin, who has supported youth and green jobs development programs, remains very popular among her supporters, Jones was the speaker Saturday who had the community room in the 1000 block of MacDonald Avenue filled.

His remarks were often light and humorous, often including humorous anecdotes about his own experiences. He made only fleeting mention of the intense outrage directed at him by Fox News personality Glenn Beck and other conservatives, calling those elements of his resume “the juicy stuff.” All told, Jones struck a moderate tone, sometimes casting his thoughts on conservation and sustainable energy as “conservative” initiatives.

“The products of tomorrow will include oil, but in a very different ratio than what we have right now,” Jones said. “Because it will also include solar panels, wind turbines, smart batteries … the equivalent of the information technology explosion we saw of the 1990s. We’re about to have an energy technology explosion, and that’s where the jobs will come from.”

Jones linked his predictions about green energy development to Richmond.

“When you can understand that, then you can understand the genius of the leadership you have here in Richmond,” Jones said.

City Councilman Jeff Ritterman also attended the event, chauffeuring Jones to the location in his Toyota Prius.

Immigration rights activist Lopez preceded Jones as a speaker. Lopez spent much less time addressing local issues, but noted on several occasions that he supported McLaughlin. He delivered a scathing criticism of the Democratic Party’s approach to immigration reform and bank bailouts, while also criticizing state policies and prison population growth.

Immigrant rights advocate Nativo Lopez said he had "no hope" of Democratic leaders accomplishing immigration reform this year.

“I have no hope that there will be immigration reform this year that’s fair, that’s humane to working immigrants and working America,” Lopez said. “This administration is not committed to it. The Democratic Party leadership is not committed to it. This Congress is not committed to it.”

McLaughlin is counting on overwhelming support from Richmond’s Latino voters this November. Latinos now compose about one-third of the city’s residents.

Lopez did hint at what many other Latino leaders have voiced around the country: That as their numbers swell and they become a more critical part of Congressional and national voting landscapes, they will not pledge their support blindly to a party without lofty legislative expectations.

“This slogan will evolve into a campaign,” Lopez said. “Legalization of no re-election.”

20100417_vanoneonone.mp3|Click here|Click here for post speech interview with Van Jones.


  1. Jackie Thompson on April 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    There were three (3) words Van Jones mentioned. If we grab hold to them in the order mentioned, and act on them…the fruit of change will be seen. Those words were: despair, hope, change. To get out of despair you must have hope (the anticipation of a desire unseen with the human eye but seen and felt with the heart), if you grab onto hope, you can and will experience “change”. We will get past the pain of joblessnes, health problems and hunger…yes, there is some pain in our community,but “change” will bring us “joy”..

  2. Robert Rogers on April 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks so much for reading, responding, and reporting those important details.

  3. mark wassberg on April 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    This is a massage to all you illegal immigrant lovers everywhere. I will load up every illegal Latino and their offspring born in the U.S. in Box cars Like Hitler did to the Jews and ship the illegals back to Mexico.

  4. Andres Soto on April 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    It was a wonderful day in Richmond with so many like minded people coming together to here this important information from Nativo and inspiration from Van and Gayle. Nat Bates, MTV, Lopez etc.. and the old guard can never mobilize this kind of support. They are planning on using Chevron and Building Trades Union money to try and defeat the Progressive Movement in Richmond, but people power and a lot of hard work for Gayle and Jovanka will overcome!

    Unfortunately, Mr. Wassberg has a couple of screws loose and this kind of flaming should be simply disregarded. No humans are illegal. Borders are just like religion and money – artificial human constructs that require faith in order to function. Wassberg doesn’t sound very Native American to me. Who is the illegal alien pilgrim?

    He is correct in that many of our neighborhoods are beginning to feel like formerly Jewish communities in Europe in the quiet disappearance of members of our community as Obama ramps up his anti-immigrant programs. He is even considering Frau Napolitano for the US Supreme Court!

  5. mark wassberg on April 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Hay Andy Soto,
    Why do you think the U.S. have immigrations laws in the first place. To keep garbage out of our great conutry. Why did you turn your back on the U.S. and surporting illegal aliens.When the pilgrim came here there was no immigration laws,do your history Andy it sounds like you when to Richmond High too lol.I have been friends with you and your family since 1969 we grew up together smoking weed and partying back in the day. You need to come on my T.V show, every Wednesday night on channel 26 comcast 11:pm “TELL IT LIKE IT IS” and we can talk about it. Wait until I talk about the violence in Richmond then you and yours illegals will realy get tick off.We can’t forget John Marques and Ludmyvna Lopez who are illeagls aliens lovers and are destroying the U.S.constitution and the law!

  6. audrey on April 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Obama is ramping up anti-imigrant programs???!!
    WTF are you smoking Andres Soto?! You underinformed guys keep working against your best interests then wonder why nothing positive ever happens for you.

    The republicans decimate and devastate your communities but it’s Obama’s fault – take your freaking hate-colored glasses off and see who your real enemies are;
    It certainly isn’t Obama –

    But don’t take my word for

  7. audrey on April 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Nativo Lopez is a narrow-minded, hatefilled a******; And that is why people like him make very inneffective advocates for any cause-

  8. little blondie on April 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Humane is the key word to all this….Nativo has a beautiful heart…
    Why should we have another Hitler episode…
    We are a civilized nation are we?
    Nativo ….Keep standing up for us…

  9. mark wassberg on April 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Nativo, John Marques and Ludmyvna Lopez are traitors, they are no different than terrorist. They have a underground railroad harboring illegals aliens from Mexico to Richmond,CA. They have safe houses here in Richmond. They are breaking the law and the U.S. Constitution in which many americans die for. Your law makers in Washington are traitors too Hillary Clinton and Obama are allowing the illegal aliens to stay in our great country. Under the constitution if the U.S. Government fails to protect us from terrorist the people have the right to take up arms and protect ourselves and overthrow the U.S. Government. Never mind Hitler Blondie, just have the KKK to take care of Richmond’s illegal aliens problem. lol

  10. Francesa on April 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Mark Wassberg people like you are the terrorists!
    You are a very angry person, probably with no pleasure in your life. Corporations hire illegal immigrants. Republicans hire illegal immigrants to clean their houses and look after their children. Why don’t we start to incarcerate the corporations and the people who hire the “illegals?”
    You think this country is the best in the world. It is not.
    Please travel a little and educate yourself. Be good to others but especially to yourself. You must be always angry and have no friends to enjoy your life with.
    I feel sorry for you and the problem is that people like you are the real problem in this country and in the world. I hope you could be shipped away the same way you want to ship the illegals! In the meantime, I hope you find some peace.

  11. ewoo on April 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    not all illegal aliens are from mexico… there are those from south africa (caucasian), england, france, germany, and other from europe (caucasian) who overstayed
    but are not targeted because they dont look latino..

  12. Fernando Gallo on May 4, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I would like to remind all those who leave comments to please refrain from vulgar and offensive language. We support free speech, but hateful speech will not be tolerated in respect to our readers. Comments in breach of our guidelines will be deleted.

    Thank you,
    Fernando Gallo
    Richmond Confidential Managing Editor

  13. Matthew Heberger on May 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Might I suggest that any commenter who proposes tactics from Hitler and the KKK is beyond rational discourse and doesn’t belong on this board?

  14. mark wassberg on May 4, 2010 at 9:56 am

    How can you support free speech when you are deleting my commnets,that is not free speech Fernando! I’m just telling the truth.The internet is freedom of speech! and stop deleting my stuff.Read The U.S. constitution that’s what amercia is all about. If i was in Mexico I’ll be in jail.

  15. mark wassberg on May 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

    freedom of speech. Are you a dictator stopping amercains of free speech that’s what Hitler and George W. Bush tried to do. Do your history!I’m trying to save america.Have a nice day,Oh by the way, watch my T.V. show “TELL IT LIKE IT IS” every Wednesday night on channel 26 comcast 11:pm my of freedom of speech!

  16. mark wassberg on May 4, 2010 at 11:13 am

    You people need to respect the U.S. law about illegal immigrants. Their is NO rights for illegal immigrants read the law and the U.S. constitution. that’s why when they are arrested by the U.S.Govenment they are deported back to where they come from, that is the LAW
    !! and if you can’t respect that then you should not be the U.S.A…. now you, (COMPRENDE)

  17. we the people on May 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    In 1966 Mario Savro who was a student at U.C.Berkeley, started the 1st free speech movement at sproul hall (google it).For Fernando Gall to stop all amercians from free speech is not a amercain. My father served in WW2 for our rights for freedon of speech and now you have U.C. Berkeley is doing the same thing that some dictators are doing.U.C. Berkeley is known for it’s racial ways for protecting the 1st amendment and wrong doing around the world, vietman war, the right for people’s park.Mark Wassberg should tone down but keep his commnets professional.

  18. Geneff on May 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Like many of us that live within the lawMr Wassberg is very frustrated! But he needs to tone it down a lot. This is not like the Underground Railroad. Anyone who crosses the border Canadian/US or Mexican/US or by sea is here ILLEGALLY. Overstaying a visa is not quite as bad, but says that you just can’t be trusted. Elected officials should work within state and federal laws. California actually has a law just like Arizona’s new law. We should all work be mindful of the cost to taxpayers. Then there is the fairness issue to those who are LEGAL immigrants. The what about kids put in the middle of it all? It’s tough enough being a kid and being branded an illegal immigrant is something we should only apply to the irresponsible parents. We should not spread hate, but just be firm and heavily fine anyone that breaks these laws. Why would any reasonable person open the door to terrorism, crime, and mayhem that millions of undocumented people roaming around. Then you wonder why extremeists like Mr. Wassberg area out of control. Take a reality check.

  19. good ol boys on June 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    list stupid,
    Obama has send 1,200 troop to the U.S. border to stop the illegal latinos from Mexico from killing amercians and coming into the U.S. illegally. thats what all this stink is all about in Arizona. If people can’t respect. U.S. immigrantion laws movie to Mexico,

Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Card image cap
Richmond Confidential

Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

Please send news tips to

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top