By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
The City of Oakland took a first step towards putting a dent in Oakland’s pressing unemployment crisis this week with City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee giving unanimous approval to opening a West Oakland Job Resource Center.
Budgeted at $500,000 per year for both operation and city support and scheduled for opening this fall, the Job Center is intended to serve as a liaison between job seekers, job training programs, unions and employers.
While its primary first job is intended to train and refer workers to the massive Oakland Army Base development project scheduled to begin later this year, the center is also intended to assist recruitment of workers for other upcoming major projects in the city—including the Oak To Ninth and Oak Knoll Naval Hospital development—as well as for other jobs and projects throughout the city.
But Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and a former Port of Oakland Commissioner, said by telephone this week that the city commitment to the job center is not enough.
“It’s good that the city has finally understood the steps needed to have this job center as a community development agreement,” Gordon said. “But are they going to have all the bells and whistles and confetti necessary to make sure that West Oakland residents get the jobs? First on the list should be West Oakland. And that doesn’t mean just jobs at the Army Base, but all the construction-related jobs that the city subsidizes.”
Gordon said that what is now needed is “a direct face-to-face” with primary contractors and sub-contractors “to hold their feet to the fire and make sure they actually do the hiring.”
West Oakland Environmental Indicators is part of the OaklandWorks consortium which, along with such organizations as Revive Oakland!, PUEBLO, the Oakland Branch of the NAACP, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda and the Alameda Labor Council, have been part of a working group that helped craft the Jobs Center proposal.
Gordon said that her organization and other groups would continue to participate in the process to ensure it meets her community’s demands and needs.
While supporting the Jobs Center resolution at this week’s CED meeting, Community and Economic Development Committee Chair Larry Reid expressed concern that some of his constituents and others in East Oakland might be reluctant to visit a West Oakland-based center.
“I know young men in my district that are involved in gangs who don’t want to come to West Oakland and meet up with someone from a rival gang,” Reid said. “I don’t want anyone to be excluded.”
Reid suggested that the city might consider opening up an East Oakland satellite office to work in conjunction with the main West Oakland Center.
Funding for the Jobs Center is expected to come from revenues from five new I-880 billboards through an agreement reached between the city and Prologis CCIG Oakland Global, master developers of the Oakland Army Base project.
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