Insufficient Job Center Funding for Army Base

West Oakland residents want a CLA (City Labor Agreement) with jobs for the city’s unemployed, not just for suburban union members

Gay Plair Cobb

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Lynette Gibson McElhaney,

By Post Staff Some supporters of the new West Oakland Job Resource Center are raising concerns that the center may not be able to realize its promise of helping job seekers at the Oakland Army Base project if the city goes ahead with its plan to take over 50 percent of the funding off the top – $254,000 of the $500,000 a year allocated for the center. “The Army Base development is said to be a $500 million project. Developers and city officials have repeatedly asserted that a top priority is jobs for Oakland residents, and yet they can only find less than $250,000 of very vulnerable money to make those jobs a reality,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein member of OaklandWORKS, one of the organizations that has worked to create the job center. “That’s less than .05  of one percent of the project budget. Let’ get real about this.” Scheduled for opening in the fall, the center is budgeted at $500,000 per year for both operation and city support. The Job Center is intended to serve as a liaison between job seekers, job training programs, unions and employers. The city has earmarked $200,000 to pay for city staff who will work on guaranteeing Army Base jobs and an additional $54,000 to pay for the maintenance and security of the library where the center is located. In a letter to City Council members, Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, questioned whether the limited funding can possibly implement the services included in the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the city for a provider to operate the Job Center. “Service providers are deeply concerned that the funding under current West Oakland Job Resource Center RFP is inadequate to support the scope of work and the outcomes expected of the contractor,” Cobb said in the May 14 letter. 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. Local organizations that have worked to make the Job Center a reality include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, the OaklandWORKS consortium, Revive Oakland!, PUEBLO, the Oakland Branch of the NAACP, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda and the Alameda Labor Council. Funding for the Job Center will come from revenue 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. City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, said she has supported the Job Center since the beginning and will push for more funding to support the center. At the same time, however, she has serious questions about whether the plan will do what it is supposed to do. “I’m going to go back and ask for a half million dollars,” she said, but added that the most important question is, “How are we going to make the promise real?  How will it reach its goal, find a way to increase employment rates in West Oakland? “I don’t think we’ve asked for enough money,” she said. Do we want a job center, or do we want jobs. What I see is inadequate.” She also questions how dependable billboard income is as a source of funding.  “I don’t know how stable those funds are. I know there are other coalitions out there that are trying to stop the billboards. I don’t like the vulnerability of this money.”
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