With Oakland’s mayoral election coming up next year, one of the big questions for all candidates will be: what you are doing or will you do to create jobs in a city that has yet to deal effectively with chronic unemployment for adults and youth and is struggling to come to grips with crime and other social ills connected to extreme poverty?
Mayor Jean Quan, staking out the incumbent’s position, says that Oakland has enough development projects in the pipeline to bring prosperity to the city, speaking at a kickoff ceremony last week at the former army base – adjacent to the Port of Oakland – which will be replaced with the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center, a hub for transporting cargo in and out of Oakland.
“Mytop priority has always been public safety and creating opportunities for our children.
The thousands of well-paid, blue collar jobs this project will bring to our city are critical to our ongoing work to build a safer, prosperous Oakland,” said Quan.
“This is the first groundbreaking in a series of three billion-dollar, game-changing projects that will bring historic growth to Oakland’s economy,” she said. “ Oakland Global, Brooklyn Basin and Coliseum City will employ many thousands of Oakland residents with good, sustainable jobs and transform our city.”
While most observers are confident the projects will create construction jobs and some jobs operating the warehouses and other businesses that are built, what remains uncertain is how many jobs will actually be created and of those how many will go to Oakland residents.
Port Commissioner Bryan Parker, a candidate for mayor, says that developer Phil Tagami deserves credit for sticking with the Army Base project for many years while Quan also deserves some credit for her efforts.
The Army Base development “will lead to lots of jobs. It is going to be a potentially game changing thing,” said Parker, adding that the development will be generally good for the economy.
“It will put Oakland’s port in the top echelon in the country – with its rail connections, logistics center and state-of-the-art warehouses,” he said. “It will attract businesses and is something the city and the port should be proud of.”
Parker was less sure about the mayor’s claims about Brooklyn Basin (formerly Oakland to 9th), Coliseum City and building a new home for the Oakland A’s. “She does deserve some of the credit for some of the things, but some of what she says is hyperbole, not balanced with actual reality,” he added
“Under my administration, we would be thinking more carefully about how we spend government funds, focusing more on public-private partnerships,” Parker said, explaining his ideas for creating more jobs for Oakland residents.
Mayoral candidate Joe Tuman, a professor and political analyst, said he was “delighted to see the city finally get this Army Base project going,” and that some jobs will be created for Oakland residents.
However, he said, “If you’re going to claim this a game changer, it also needs to be a game changer in terms of stimulating Oakland’s economy and growing jobs.
“A good share of those permanent jobs need to go to those who are most vulnerable, who are unemployed, live in poor neighborhoods and are victims of crime,” Tuman said. “Even with all the work that’s gone into this Army Base project, is not clear to me how many jobs will be going to residents of Oakland and those in West Oakland,
“How many people who live there will get these jobs? Will they extend to people of color?” He asked.
As for Coliseum City, he said he felt the mayor was premature with her claims. “It is a great concept, and if it happens that will be wonderful. But we have to be careful not to over-claim what we have here. There are still many steps to go. It’s all very preliminary.”
The mayor’s responsibility, he said, is to provide public safety and fix the neighborhoods. “Fix the things you’re supposed to fix now. There are very serious problems in the Coliseum area that still need to be addressed.”
The city must have an aggressive jobs policy, he said, to provide support for Oakland’s long-term unemployed, young people in and out of high school who are looking for work and older workers whose age is a barrier to finding a job.
As mayor, Tuman said he would ensure that the city supports buildings trades training programs and creates supports for small contractors, which hire more Oakland residents.
“We want to make sure everyone who wants access has an opportunity,” he said. “We have to be sure our (business and trade union) partners are continuing to represent the diversity of our community.”
In the longer run, Tuman said, he will work to bring more hotels and retail businesses to Oakland, which will generate tax income and also jobs for local residents. He will also seek bring biotechnology and computer technology companies to the city.