Healthy Schools Network Involved in Unhealthy Activism
A group called the Healthy Schools Network has been trying to make a case against hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development in New York. It turns out the group has very unhealthy extremist connections.
Last Friday’s Susan Arbetter show out of Albany (“The Capitol Pressroom”) included, at 38:00, an interview with two individuals from an organization known as the Healthy Schools Network about the impact of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development on New York Schools. It wasn’t a particularly illuminating interview and largely consisted of arguments set forth in this story last year, which we’ll address in a moment. What really caught our attention was one of the spokespersons for the group, an individual named Jeff Jones and that led to a few other interesting findings about the Healthy Schools Network.
Jeff Jones is listed as one of two organizational contacts in this press release last year regarding the Healthy School Network’s position on hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development. He also appears as a director of the organization in its 990 return for 2010 and reportedly consults with the group. He went on the air with Susan Arbetter to intone, in his most serious non-threatening voice, his great concern about the “serious questions facing the health of our kids.” Well, the parents ought to be concerned because if the health of New York’s schools is to be influenced by Jeff Jones, there is plenty to worry about given his unhealthy history of extremist activism.
A full rundown on Mr. Jeff Jones may be found here, but let’s hit some of the high points from this report, which also reveals a great deal about the character of some many other natural gas opponents (bold emphasis added):
Jeffrey Carl Jones was born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in February 1947. In September 1965 he enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio. A month later he joined the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and became active as an anti-war speaker on college campuses. In April 1967 Jones quit school to become the regional office coordinator of New York City’s SDS chapter, a position he held until December 1968.
During his tenure with SDS, Jones became a sworn enemy of the United States government. Believing that America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia was immoral, he sided with the North Vietnamese communists. Formally renouncing the conscientious-objector status that had been conferred on him as a result of his Quaker lineage, he began referring to himself and his ideological comrades as “communist revolutionaries.”
By mid-June of 1969, Jones, along with Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd, became a leader of SDS’s most militant wing and formed a new radical organization, Weatherman. They issued a Weatherman “manifesto” eschewing nonviolence and calling for armed opposition to U.S. policies; advocating the overthrow of capitalism…
Jones helped to promote and organize an October 1969 demonstration in Chicago, timed to coincide with two significant events: (a) the trial of the “Chicago Seven” defendants who stood accused of having incited the aforementioned riots of 1968; and (b) the second anniversary of the death of Che Guevara.
“Bring the War Home” was the slogan for this latest Chicago rally [and] Jones exhorted his listeners to take violently to the streets, thereby unleashing the so-called “Days of Rage” which featured rioters (many of them affiliated with Weatherman) smashing windows, damaging cars, and clashing with police.
Jones was arrested for his role in the Days of Rage, along with approximately 100 others. He was charged with “crossing state lines to foment a riot and conspiring to do so.” When he he failed to appear for his March 1970 court date, the FBI launched a manhunt to track him down.
Also, in March 1970, Jones and Weatherman issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government. For the first time, they used a new name, the “Weather Underground Organization,” adopting fake identities and restricting themselves exclusively to covert activities.
Jones would manage to elude law-enforcement authorities for a decade. After living for more than a year in San Francisco with fellow fugitive Bernardine Dohrn, Jones and Weather Underground comrade Eleanor Raskin relocated to New York’s Catskill Mountain region in 1971; during the years that followed, they would reside variously in New Jersey and the Bronx, New York.
In 1974 Jones co-authored — along with Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Celia Sojourn — the book Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism, whose title was an allusion to Mao Zedong‘s observation that “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” This publication contained the following statements:
- “We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men … deeply affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S. imperialism.”
- “Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside.”
- “The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war.”
- “Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted. It includes mass struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony with the armed struggle.”
- “Without mass struggle there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle there can be no victory.”
- “We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society.”
- “Our job is to tap the discontent seething in many sectors of the population, to find allies everywhere people are hungry or angry, to mobilize poor and working people against imperialism.”
- “Socialism is the total opposite of capitalism / imperialism. It is the rejection of empire and white supremacy. Socialism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the eradication of the social system based on profit.”
In late October 1981, Jones and Raskin were caught in a police sweep of individuals suspected of having participated in the deadly robbery of an armored truck in Nyack, New York three days earlier. A week before their sentencing in December 1981, Jones and Raskin were married. At sentencing, Jones received probation and community service, while the charges against Raskin were dropped.
Jones thereafter spent ten years as a communications director for Environmental Advocates of New York. He currently heads Jeff Jones Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in helping grassroots leftist organizations promote their agendas and fundraise successfully. His clients include, among others, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Workforce Development Institute, New Partners for Community Revitalization, the Land Trust Alliance, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, the Healthy Schools Network, and the League of Conservation Voters.
In addition, Jones is a board member of West Harlem Environmental Action; the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy; the Healthy Schools Network; the Capital District Chapter of the League of Conservation Voters; and the financial arm of Movement for a Democratic Society, a group that works closely with the newly reconstituted SDS.
So, the Healthy Schools Network relies upon an unrepentant felon and self-described communist to carry forth its message on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development. I’m sure that’s every parent’s dream of what a healthy school is all about.
It’s also a message that just happens to conform to that of other Jones clients such as the NRDC, Environmental Advocates of New York and the League of Conservation Voters. Where have we heard those names before? Not only that, but it also resonates with the messages of the Healthy Schools Network’s two major funders, the Wallace Genetic Foundation and the Marisla Foundation. Both fund all the usual suspects among anti-growth groups, but especially interesting is the Wallace Genetic Foundation, founded by former Vice-President Henry Wallace.
That foundation has funded American Rivers (remember their designations of the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers as “most endangered” due to natural gas development?), the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Duke University, Earthjustice, the Environmental Working Group, the NRDC and the Catskill Mountainkeeper. Isn’t that interesting? The Mountainkeeper received $65,000 in 2011, in fact, enough to pay all or most of Wes Gillingham’s salary. Iromically, the Wallace Genetic Foundation earned the money to pay for that grant by investing in companies such as Baker Hughes and Schlumberger (according to its 990 return for 2011).
The Healthy Schools Network, as it turns out, is just another anti-growth organization out to squelch any economic opportunities for economic development upstate, but one that uses children as props and a Weatherman as its adviser.
What did Jones and Claire Barnett, the organization’s Executive Director have to say? Well, nothing new. They both pretended to be neutral on the subject of hydraulic fracturing while making no distinction between it and other aspects of natural gas development and insisting that it must be dangerous. They offered no factual data whatsoever to support their argument other than to suggest there were 68 existing wells on school properties and 51 in areas potentially affected by fracturing.
They complained the SGEIS didn’t specifically use the word “children,” as if that somehow meant they weren’t considered when impacts were discussed (an argument a child could dismantle). They ominously noted the Department of Education wasn’t involved in regulating natural gas development. And, they falsely stated that DEC conducted no oversight following permit issuance. That will be news to natural gas operators dealing with DEC inspections and monitoring. They also carefully raised the issue of the seven gas wells on the property of the LeRoy School District to plant the idea a case of unusual behavior among students must be related to natural gas even though the investigation demonstrated otherwise.
It was, in the end, just another plea to delay the implementation of natural gas development in New York by raising non-existent health issues and speculating about others. More of the same, from more of the same. What it did demonstrate, nonetheless, was a much bigger problem – how anyone, anyone at all, could possibly take this group seriously. How does a “Healthy Schools: program put a felon who’s proud of his past out front to make it’s case? Any kindergartener can see that’s just not healthy for our kids or our schools.