Steven J. Moss (KNLP 16), Founder and Executive Director, San Francisco Community Power.
This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Steve Moss works with populations that are often neglected by policy makers and the broader society. In so doing, he applies his penchant for community building to venues ranging from his own San Francisco neighborhood to Niger, West Africa, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Says Steve, his approach is to ”look for ’policy windows’, opportunities that open up as a result of political or social changes. For example, climate change, while a substantially intractable problem, provides opportunities for hard-pressed communities to benefit economically by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.”
Responding to California’s energy crises, Steve founded San Francisco Community Power in 2001. The nonprofit organization helps businesses and residents improve their communities’ environmental and economic health by reducing their electricity use. To date, the organization has provided more than 20,000 low-income families and small businesses with energy-saving devices. For example, San Francisco Community Power convinced state regulators to allow small businesses, churches, and schools to participate in programs that pay energy users to reduce their electricity use, something that had previously been only available to large commercial and industrial companies.
In his efforts to build civic engagement around confronting major polluters in the community, Steve discovered that most residents turned to their neighborhood newspaper for information. He became a regular contributor to the Potrero View. When the publisher retired, Steve took over.
Steve joined with a coalition of nonprofits and community activists to successfully close the ancient and polluting Hunter’s Point Power Plant that had long been a blight in a predominately African-American community.
San Francisco Community Power also was influential in opposing a high-voltage, 56-mile-long transmission line that an international investment firm proposed to run from the City of Pittsburg, under the bay, to San Francisco. Steve’s organization determined the project was too expensive, not needed, and detracted from cleaner energy projects. Ultimately, the project was approved, but as part of the negotiations, the investment firm agreed to provide a $50 million community mitigation fund for clean energy projects.
Steve’s interest in international work led him to answer a U.S. Treasury Department ad to help improve the budgeting process in developing countries. (He previously worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget.) The Treasury Department posted Steve in Niger, where over the past two years he has made more than a half-dozen trips to consult with the Minister of Finance on ways to more effectively invest in health, education, and social services.
”Niger’s budget is one-tenth of the City and County of San Francisco’s budget,” he says. ”I try to help them figure out how they can best spend their scarce public resources.” Steve says his stubborn streak helps keep him committed in all his community-building endeavors. ”Truthfully, I do occasionally think it would be easier to just open a candy shop or something,” he admits, ”but, like many Kellogg Fellows, being constantly mad about social wrongs is in my blood.” [4/08]