Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Oakland Councilmembers Back Job Training Funding Initiative

City of Oakland Councilmembers Desley Brooks (District Six) and Noel Gallo (District Five) are backing an initiative for the November 2018 ballot. Called “Career Jobs Fund Now!”, the legislation, slated for introduction to “Oakland City Council ‘s Finance, CEDA and – or Public Safety Committee meetings on July 17th”, according to Councilmember Brooks. Brooks asks that you go to those meetings and encourage the Committee members to vote in favor of putting the Measure on the November ballot.

If passed, the initiative would amend the Oakland City Charter so that seven percent of “annual unrestricted revenues received by the new construction of market rate housing and commercial developments completed after January 2019,” be used to fund job traning services.

Here’s why.

Oakland has a jobs and job training crisis of a kind not seen in the past: dramatically and historically low rates of unemployment as low as just under 4 percent in the town, mask a giant problem of under-employment, and are introduced as some kind of debating counter to the homeless crisis. And note the lack of metion of the labor force participation rate, of late.

Interestingly, when Barack Obama was President of the United States, quotes of low-unemployment-rates were always followed by news of said-to-be high rates of laborers not in the job market at all. Now, with Donald Trump as President, the media doesn’t mention those rates. But the fact is between 2008 and 2018, the labor force participation rate decreased from 66.2 percent to 62.9 percent for June 2018. And from 2008 to 2014 the labor force participation rate dropped a full three percent on the average – since 2014, that 63 percent rate, plus or minus 2 tenths of a percent, has stubbornly remained steady, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data as shown in the chart at the top of this post.

What this means is a full three percent of the American working population has stopped looking for a job that’s counted by the Federal Government. In other words, they’re out of the work force. It also means the low unemployment rates you read about are only referring to those people who are working versus those who file for unemployment assistance. If you don’t file for unemployment assistance, or are on the record as applying for a job, you can’t be considered unemployed. You just don’t exist as a worker.

That data matches reports of higher-than-ever rates of homeless populations in American cities, like Oakland. Last year, the American estimated homeless populaton went up for the first time since the Great Recession. In Oakland, there’s an estimated homeless populaton of 3,000 people. But the numbers seem greater than that, as tents are in various areas around Lake Merritt, and seem to pop-up when one turns a random corner in various parts of Oakland’s flatlands.

Three developments have contributed to this: 1) the ending of California Redevelopment Law, which Oakland used to build an affordable housing fund that was up to $111 million in its last year, 2011, 2) the decline in funding of job training programs because of the ending of the program that fuled much of their funding in Oakland, California Redevelopment Law, and 3) the rise in housing demand in Oakland, due to rising housing costs in San Francisco. Oakland was once leaped over as a destination for ex-San Francisco dwellers, and because of a racism where Oakland was considered “too black” as if that’s a bad thing. But the election of Jerry Brown as Mayor of Oakland in 1998 (and the first white male mayor since 1978) marked the beginning of the end of such problems in Oakland.

Oakland has grown in population with no economic incentive to build affordable housing. Tech jobs were and are plentiful and Oakland has an anecdotally-pointed to shortage of well-paying, low skilled jobs like, for example, hotel doorperson. (Because we don’t have a lot of hotel rooms.)

The “Brooks – Gallo Oakland Jobs Initiative” (I will call it) is a way to fund job training so that people but in particular, blacks in Oakland (the ones who make up the largest percentage of the under-employed and the homeless) have a better opportunity to land career tech jobs. “We have a crisis in the City of Oakland — homelessness, lack of affordable housing, high unemployment rates in the African American and Latino communities, displacement and gentrification.  A career job is a good start to addressing these issues,” says Councilmember Brooks.

Stay tuned.

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