“Monumental First Step” for Army Base Jobs

Jun 29, 2012

By Post Staff

Oakland will develop its old Army base with more benefits to the local community than most cities achieve in local development projects.

That is the opinion of representatives of major community organizations, who have been working for years to create an agreement on the $1 billion project that serves local residents and not only corporations and developers.

At the same time, many feel that the City Council made unnecessary concessions to the developers, which did not conform to its own jobs policy passed just a few months ago.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done here. It is a monumental first step, but we know there’s still a lot to be done,” said Shirley Burnell from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE).

The deal that passed at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting contains a 50 per cent local hiring agreement on construction jobs, with no loopholes for contractors to bring employees from somewhere else, at least for half the jobs.

A “jobs center” through which all the jobs will pass will be created, so that it is clear that local residents and those from the most affected zip codes are being hired.

The resolution contains preferences for small local businesses and small contractors.

J. Alfred Smith Jr.

The community will have a voice in enforcing the agreements and community participation in the design and funding of the Jobs Center.

“OaklandWORKS is especially proud of the fact that a strong voice for West Oakland and other marginalized residents has been created that is not affiliated with any particular politician, contractor or trade,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, a local education professor and activist.

At the same time OaklandWORKS, ACCE and other community members are determined to keep up the fight about issues that have not been resolved.

There are many concerns whether enforcement will have sufficient teeth. Councilmember Desley Brooks has proposed stronger reporting requirements and sanctions for failure to comply with the agreement, which will be discussed at next week’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting.

There is no clear “ban the box” agreement that guarantees the formerly incarcerated can apply for employment without the automatic discrimination that comes with having to declare their arrests on an application.

“While I am still somewhat skeptical about the loophole that deals with the box, I am somewhat hopeful,” said Pastor J. Alfred Smith, Jr. of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, speaking at the council meeting.

“Don’t equivocate when it comes to the box,” he told council members. “Stand your ground.”

There are also concerns about whether the 50 percent local hire requirement will actually be applied to later phases of the development.

Several local businesses that already hire more than 500 local workers in port-related logistics and transportation need to be  assured  space in the development, said local businessman Dexter Vizenau.

Concerns are also being raised that the principal developer’s record on other projects in the city has included overspending and broken agreements.