Mayor Takes $200,000 of Youth Jobs Money

By Ken A. Epstein

The city’s workforce Investment Board (WIB) has approved spending $200,000 of federal jobs money to hire a part time staff person to coordinate the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program and to support the work of nonprofit agencies that provide summer jobs. Some are saying the money would be better spent on stipends to provide jobs for young people.

City staff, speaking at Thursday’s WIB meeting, said the Mayor’s Office had requested that that the WIB find a way to support the summer jobs program.

Jobs for Oakland youth. Photo courtesy of the Unity Council.

Jobs for Oakland youth. Photo courtesy of the Unity Council.

Explaining the proposal, staff said that only $50,000 would be used to pay for the part time coordinator position, and $150,000 would be used as direct services to agencies that create youth jobs.

However, they never specified what those direct services to youth agencies are. According to the City report, the $200,000 would be used to “coordinate summer employment activities overall… (and) disburse funds to service providers to maximize summer employment opportunities.”

“I believe this motion is out of order,” said Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, explaining that under federal law recommendations for expenditures of youth money must be made by the WIB’s Youth Council.

But according to the City Attorney, the only reason the Youth Council did not make a recommendation was because it had lacked a quorum when the issue was discussed.  Therefore, he said, the motion at the WIB was not out of order.

Speaking after the meeting, Cobb responded. “Even if it were in order, (this expenditure) is a very problematic proposition,” she said. Instead of using money that should be earmarked for service to unemployed youth, the WIB should be asking, “What other sources of revenue we can look at to support the administration of the summer jobs program? The $200,000 could be better used to create 200 youth stipends for low-income kids this summer,” she said.

City Council members who attended the special Community and Economic Development meeting Wednesday, including Larry Reid, Libby Schaaf and Lynette Gibson McElhaney, agreed that the time has come for the city to begin helping to pay for job programs, not just to slice off funds to cover city staff and operations.

“We need to put some skin in the game,” said Council President Pat Kernighan, speaking at the meeting.

Mayor Quan did not respond to the Post’s questions.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2014 (www.postnewsgroup.com)