By Desley Brooks | District 6 City Councilmember
Oakland is part of two metropolitan areas—San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara—that currently rank as places with the best economies in the country.
In our North Bay metro region, average household income is now about $96,677 each year—nearly double the national median household income of $57,617, according to the US Census Bureau.
Oakland is at the center of the larger region’s prosperity with about a three percent unemployment rate; experts say this economic prosperity will only continue to grow.
Intentionally left out of this prosperity has been Black and Latino youth, women of color and persons formerly incarcerated, all of whom face an unemployment of 3 to 10 times of this three percent rate.
Those who find low paying temporary jobs are forced to make a choice between dedicating a majority of their salary to higher and higher housing costs, food for their families, moving far away, or to living on the streets.
The politics of this economic opportunity paired with growing inequity and city’s status quo administration came to fruition this past Tuesday June 5.
Despite repeated demands to pass policy, invest resources and hold our job training and placement programs accountable, the Council failed to take any action or even to discuss the issue.
The Council, Mayor and Administration have once again failed to deliver for our residents who are being left out of this boom economy.
First, I want to recognize my colleagues, Councilmembers Kaplan and Gallo for understanding the urgency to achieve a goal of guaranteeing 1,000 Oaklanders career jobs per year and a vision of 5,000 careers for our residents locked out of the booming economy.
It was disappointing that Councilmembers Campbell-Washington, Guillen and Gibson-McElhaney aligned with the status quo of Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration-an Administration that has been unwilling to work with Oakland’s most underserved communities to find real solutions to finally address Black and Brown unemployment, underemployment and displacement.
Late last year, we began a process of drafting legislation that started a conversation about how we achieve $6 million a year to fund community-based, job training programs as part of a plan linked to capital improvement and development projects in our city.
A healthy amount of debate and discussion was had over the last six months but lacked leadership from the Mayor or City Attorney to come up with a program and funding formula that would work.
This past Tuesday, we were able to finally hear from the Oakland City Attorney’s office. Rather than find legal solutions requested 6 months ago, they put forward an “opinion” stating that any monies spent by the City had to be approved by the Workforce Investment Board and that the City could only have one comprehensive job plan.
In my role as Councilmember, I repeatedly asked the City Attorney’s office to provide the legal authority to support their position. However, in each instance they would cite various sections of law but never responded directly to the question.
When asked again if there was a statute which supported their opinion, Deputy City Administrator Doryanna Moreno said “there was no specific provision.” When asked if there was any case law to support the city attorney’s position she said, “no, there was no case law.” When asked if it was just their opinion she answered “it was their analysis.”
See Part II next week