A leader of the Oakland branch of the NAACP is joining efforts of civil rights groups calling on Mayor Libby Schaaf to rescind her unilateral decision to reorganize the city’s federally funded workforce programs, jeopardizing jobs and training opportunities for the unemployed, youth and formerly incarcerated.
William “Bill” Patterson, member of the NAACP executive board and longtime member of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB), says he and the NAACP are deeply concerned that by not following established procedures, the mayor is illegally moving ahead with Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to implement the overhaul of Oakland’s jobs programs without community input, without discussion and without approval by the WIB or discussion and a vote of the Oakland City Council.
“We have weighed in and we are considering what steps we should take to uphold the law,” said Patterson, explaining that changes in funding and priorities have always been voted upon by the WIB in the past.
“We want to make sure the city is not jeopardizing people’s futures,” he said. “A process like that is opposed to serving the needs of the people intended.”
Critics of the mayor’s reorganization say her changes are based on a budget that cuts job services to needy individuals, effective July 1 —even though Oakland has not yet been told what federal jobs funding will be for next year.
The new budget also closes neighborhood career centers in East and West Oakland and limits youth jobs money to three as yet unidentified neighborhoods.
They are asking why the mayor is speeding ahead with the changes without extensive community input, even though there is no reason to rush. With only minimal input, the RFPs were written for the city by outside consultants, say the critics.
The city held a bidders’ conference last week at City Hall, and the deadline for submission of proposals under the new RFPs is March 8.
Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, president of the Oakland-Berkeley chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), recently attended a meeting hosted by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond.
The meeting was organized to give community members a chance to express their concerns about the lack of transparency in the RFP process to Patrick Henning Jr., director of the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
“We support the efforts for a fair process and the community’s involvement in changes in job programs that are the meant for the community,” Mayfield said. “We want to be involved to ensure that the money is spent on direct services to people who need them.”
Carroll Fife, co-chair of the Oakland Alliance, told the Post she is attempting to speak about the community’s concerns to executive director of the California of Workforce Investment Board Tim Rainey.
“So far, I have heard no word,” said Fife. “I sent him an email and left a voicemail last week and followed up again this week. I know the mayor has been in communication with him.”
Fife said community members are frustrated because they have been left out. “This process is not transparent,” she said. “There is no community involvement, and there’s no Oakland WIB involvement.”
“How do we engage in this process that affects so many Oaklanders when we’re not even allowed into the process?” She asked. “We don’t even know what’s going on.”
Mayor Schaaf’s office told the Post that a vote by the council or approval of the WIB are not a required part of the processing for issuing the new RFPs, the budget or the policy changes on which they are based.
“The RFP framework was agendized and discussed multiple times at meetings of the Board and subcommittees starting in August of 2014. WIOA does not require that the WIB formally review or approve an RFP, nor has it in the past,” according to the Mayor’s Office.
A review of the Oakland’s WIB’s board’s minutes by the Post did not reveal that the board had ever agreed to the mayor’s new program strategies.
Schaaf’s office also said the RFPs did not need to go through the city’s Race & Equity process, established in January. “The Department of Race & Equity is not yet up and running, nor have its full roles and responsibilities been fully outlined,” her office said.