By Ashley Chambers
Oakland is in the midst of a hot mayoral campaign season, and the city is beginning to see a rising concern about unemployment and jobs as top issue for candidates, along with public safety and affordable housing.
This week, the Post asked a number of the candidates what their stance is on the $1.2 billion Oakland Global Army Base project’s s promise of thousands of jobs for city residents.
The candidates were asked if they believe results so far of the Oakland Global project are transparent to public oversight and if equal opportunity to jobs is available to all Oakland residents?
If they become mayor, the Post asked, how would they ensure that major development projects that utilize public funds and public land deliver on promises to local and minority residents?
Master developer Phil Tagami of California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) has served as the city’s agent on the project. Until recently, transparency has been stifled amid concerns that local, minority residents are not getting jobs on the project.
Mayor Jean Quan and Joe Tuman did not return the Oakland Post’s requests for an interview for this article.
Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel said he strongly “disagrees with the model for the Oakland Army Base development where the master developer has so much control over the project. That concentration of authority explains the inadequate efforts to hire local residents.”
The city needs “complete transparency and strict, impartial oversight over city development projects,” said Siegel.
Siegel says his highest priority as mayor would be “creating good paying jobs for Oakland residents…and require a developer such as Tagami to pay for the recruitment and training of workers to fill the jobs at the Oakland Army Base.”
Councilmember and mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf also expressed her concerns.
“This half-billion dollar project should be creating thousands of jobs. It’s frustrating to see the slow hiring process and the slow hiring of Oaklanders,” she said.
However, she says, the horizontal infrastructure development is slow work that will not employ many people, but later there will be vertical development of warehouses and business that will create more jobs. “I am very optimistic that the vertical construction will indeed hire thousands more,” she said.
Promoting the hiring of ex-offenders, Schaaf says Oakland should “look at hiring Oaklanders first, hiring ex-offenders and taking care of our own,” adding that the the city must also to ensure that local, minority firms have a fair chance at winning contracts in the city.
“We need to work with a variety of firms to ensure we get great projects, like the Army Base,” she said. “There are far too many locally grown firms already here that we should be using.”
Deeply involved in the port’s side of the Army Base project, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says the project is in “the first inning of a nine inning ballgame,” referring to the five-year construction phase of the project and the vertical construction that will come afterward.
“I want to see more African American jobs created – as an underrepresented group, that is fair,” Parker said. “However, we must also recognize Oakland’s overall diversity and also make sure all races, ages, and sexual preferences are addressed in our job plans.”
He said that the 425 jobs created – half of which have gone to Oakland residents – is “fairly significant.” A city consultant has projected 1,523 construction jobs for the first phase of the project, he said.
“As mayor, I am going to insist that any developer who develops in Oakland receives all the benefits Oakland has to offer, but in exchange, invests in our economy including vital safety services,” Parker said, emphasizing his support for re-entry residents.
“Investing in our re-entry residents is a step at making a safer Oakland,” he continued.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan says she is backing local jobs by ensuring that the city addresses “the disparity in city contracting between large corporations and local, minority-owned firms.”
City administration “needs to do a better job when it comes to enforcing the local hire rules in place” at the Army Base Project, she said.
As mayor, Kaplan says she won’t “just promise local jobs and do a ribbon cutting but make sure we’re actually creating the jobs.”
“Oakland is the best city in the Bay Area, but it has the worst city government,” said City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “A big part of the problem is a failure in leadership that has squandered opportunities by bouncing from crisis to crisis, always looking for a political solution, instead of implementing sound decisions by focusing on results.”
“The only way we can rebuild trust in local government is to focus on transparency and results,” Ruby said.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)