Category: Oakland Job Programs

Hack the Hood Grads Have Much to Offer Tech World

 

hack the hood

By Ashley Chambers

High school senior Jayshaun Thomas can show just about anyone how to create a website.

“It’s easy to teach,” he said at the Hack the Hood summer boot camp graduation on Aug. 12 at Impact Hub in Oakland.

Thomas was one of 46 graduates who completed the six-week boot camp, where young people learned coding and web design and gained skills to enter the tech industry.

Since 2013, Hack the Hood has trained low-income young people of color how to design websites for small businesses in their community. Last Wednesday, the largest group of students graduated from the program.

The training not only helped students learn impressive skills but also helped boost their self-confidence.

“I’m learning to better communicate with people,” said student Raeshonna Smith.

“The thing that stuck with me was the people here; I could just act myself,” said Thomas, who aspires to be a clothing and web designer. “I like doing websites, and going through and actually coming up with my own type of creations. I want people to see what I can create.”

Jayla Johnson created a website for local nonprofit, Scientific Adventures for Girls using Weebly, which features a slideshow of young girls experimenting in the company’s STEM programs on the site’s home page.

Johnson says she was excited to see the results of her hard work. “Hack the Hood showed me how big technology is to everyday life,” Johnson said.

And the world is ready for what these young technology innovators will create next.

Stewart Butterfield, CEO and founder of Slack – a messaging app – and Erica Baker, release engineer with Slack, provided valuable advice to the new graduates.

“There are issues unique to your community that haven’t been addressed yet…so make or do stuff that you want, and people will come to you,” said Butterfield.

Engineer DeVaris Brown encouraged students to “be an example of excellence.”

“Be proud of your diversity,” said Brown, who has spoken around the world about technology being accessible to everyone. “Be an example for your peers in your community.”

One student, Norma, who is an immigrant, courageously shared her story of overcoming her personal obstacles.

She said her Hack the Hood instructor, Damon Packwood, helped her look beyond the barriers against her and explore the opportunities. “Who knows, I could be an expert at coding,” she said.

Hack the Hood co-founders Susan Mernit and Zakiya Harris look forward to expanding the program this fall with a pilot project at MetWest High School.

For more information, visit www.hackthehood.org.

Photo caption: Hack the Hood graduated its largest group of 46 students from the 2015 Summer Boot Camp on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at Impact Hub in Oakland. 2015 graduates were: Ben Ampon, Adrian Anderson, Quentin Booker, Reetah Boyce, Kevin Butler, LeAnn Chingcuangco, Ashton Ealy, Charles Killian, Alpha-Oumar Cisse, Myles McConico, Qadir Muhammad, Ambrocio Pablo, Ishmael Rico, Joshua Solorzano, Raeshonna Smith, Elias Ramirez, Daniel Alvarado, Ishmael Bayley, Chadwick Butler, Nathan Craner, Renee Creer, Basheer Dalil, Ty Delaney, Abel Gaim, Daniel Gaim, Rose Hamilton, Rachel Harper, Sennua Hunter, Kevin Mills, Eric Nobles, Milan Perkins, Cary Proctor, Norma Soto, Jayshaun Thomas, Marcello Thompson, Ulysses Waddy-Smith, Vanson Le, Eddrena Hall, Jayla Johnson, Vu Le, Taylor Noel, Dulce Palacios, Abel Regalado, and Xaria Thompson. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Congressional Black Caucus Takes Tech Initiative to Silicon Valley

udith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager of Google (left) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Photo by Conway Jones

udith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager of Google (left) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Photo by Conway Jones

By Conway Jones

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), all members of the CBC’s Diversity Task Force, visited Silicon Valley Aug. 2-4 to meet with executives at the country’s foremost technology companies and organizations as part of the CBC TECH 2020 initiative.

Launched in May, the technology initiative is a five-year plan developed by the CBC to address the underrepresentation of African Americans within the technology industry.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African Americans in the tech pipeline,” said Rep. Butterfield.

“This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies,” he said. “Building a coalition of leaders from the public and private sectors ensures greater diversity and full representation of African Americans at every level of tech by 2020.”

“This visit is another step toward opening doors of opportunity for African Americans in the booming tech sector,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “Increasing diversity and inclusion within the tech sector is not only a moral imperative, it is good for business and vital to continue economic growth.”

“The technology sector will increasingly be at the forefront of our country’s continued growth and prosperity,” said Rep. Jeffries.  “In this regard, it is important to make sure that all Americans have an opportunity to participate in the innovation economy.”

As part of the TECH 2020 plan, the CBC has outlined diversity principles, best practices, and resources for African American students and entrepreneurs and introduced legislation focused on increasing STEAM education.

During the trip, members met representatives of a number of companies, including Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor, Pandora and SAP.

Bloomberg hosted a press conference at their San Francisco office to discuss the CBC’s TECH 2020 initiatives and the delegations work in Silicon Valley.

Judith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Programs Manager represented Google.  She said that Google has a robust K-12 investment in early education.  Google hopes to rectify factors that hold people back from reaching their potential.

“There is no encouragement in the work place. No one there looks like them. They don’t think they can succeed, and they don’t think they can change the world,” Williams said.

Added Congressman Butterfield, “The current focus in Congress is for less education, and a push to shift the responsibility for education to the states. There is less money.”

“We are fighting the same battles we fought before. We must make sure that the ‘unconscious biases’ don’t become institutionalized in organizations,” said Congresswoman Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 8, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Brings 400 High Tech Jobs to Oakland

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (right) this week announced that Oakland was one of 40 cities selected for President Obama's TechHire Communities program.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (right) this week announced that Oakland was one of 40 cities selected for President Obama’s TechHire Communities program.

President Obama this week announced 10 new “TechHire Communities, including Oakland, which has committed to placing 400 individuals in paid internships or full-time jobs by the end of 2015.

The city will achieve this commitment through several accelerated pathways, which will be publicized in the near future.

“I am pleased to see Oakland become a TechHire Community. The city’s commitment to empowering people with work based on their skill set and advance tech training is remarkable and vital to the continued economic growth of our community,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“I am proud to have been a part of this tremendous effort and I look forward to working with city officials to expand this program and others that link community members with resources, workforce training and good-paying jobs,” said Congresswoman Lee.

The president’s TechHire Community program is a public-private partnership designed to ensure applicants find work based on their skill sets, as opposed to degrees.

It is also designed to activate accelerated tech training opportunities while investing in innovative entrepreneurial and jobs programs that connect a diverse workforce, including women, people of color, veterans and underserved and disconnected young people.

“I am delighted that Oakland will be partnering with public and private partners to ensure that the type of diversity that is found in cities like Oakland is reflected in the halls of our tech leaders,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“Congresswoman Lee was instrumental in making this happen for Oakland,” said Schaaf.

“We are really committed to this agenda of equity, of getting Oakland kids ready and connected to opportunities here in the Bay Area,” she said.

Other new TechHire communities announced this week are Akron, OH; Birmingham, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Lynchburg, VA; Maine; New Orleans, LA; Pittsburgh, PA; Rhode Island; and San Jose, CA.

President Obama’s goal is to establish 40 TechHire cities by the end of the year.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 8, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

OPD Efforts to Recruit African Americans Yield Meager Results

By Ashley Chambers and Dakotah Jennifer

Recent efforts by the Oakland Police Department to increase the numbers of African American officers have resulted in meager increases in the hiring and retention of Black officers, according to a report submitted this week the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.OPD

Blacks make up 28 percent of the city’s population but only 18.3 percent of the city’s sworn officers, 34 percent below their numbers in the population.

The report highlights more aggressive outreach and recruitment by OPD. However, data shows that at least 80 percent of African American applicants did not advance to police academies conducted by OPD since 2012.

Of the 354 new officers hired through these academies from 2012 to 2014, 14 percent were African American; 19 percent were Asian; 35 percent white; nearly 28 percent were Hispanic; and 3 percent were other races or undisclosed, according to the report.

Enhanced recruitment efforts include partnering with local faith-based and nonprofit organizations, participating in career fairs, and connecting with career centers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

While failing to recruit African Americans, the efforts to hire more bilingual applicants appear to have been effective, the report said.

“We’re getting numbers of people to apply, but they can’t get though the process,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee. “They get weeded out in three places, the written exam, oral exam and background check.”

She says she hopes that a careful look OPD recruiting can result in overcoming some of the barriers.

The report notes that OPD has organized monthly workshops to aid African American applicants in preparing for the written exam. But the number of African Americans attending police academies has not shown significant change since 2012.

Hiring data for the most recent academy, which graduated in Fall 2014, show that 411 African Americans applied, 20 percent of the total number of applicants. Of that number, 60 proceeded to the final stages of the application process, only three percent of the total number of 348 applicants.

After background investigations and character reviews, seven Blacks were recruited to attend the academy, among a total of 82 applicants who were hired.

Because field training of these new officers is still in progress, these numbers are still subject to change.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Diversity Within OPD Still Falls Short

Disparities in hirng of Asians, Blacks and Latinos; Blacks most underrepresented

 

OPD recruits

OPD recruits

By Ken Epstein

A new report released by the City of Oakland indicates that the police department is still falling short in efforts to diversify its force of sworn officers.

According to the report released this week and dated Feb. 5, 18.3 percent of OPD’s sworn officers are African American, while 28 percent of Oakland population is Black.

This means that the percentage of African American police officers is 34 percent below their numbers in the population.

Latinos comprise 22.5 percent of OPD officers and 25 percent of the city’s population, a 10 percent disparity, according to the report released by Interim City Administrator John Flores.

Asians, who make up 16 percent of the city’s population, comprising 12.2 percent of the police force, down from 20.9 percent in 2013.

This means that representation of Asians is almost 24 percent below their numbers in Oakland.

However, these disparities in OPD hiring are in marked contrast to data on overall city staffing. As of Jan. 1, 2015, African Americans, Latinos and Asians who work for the city are roughly proportional to their numbers.

African American staff make up 28 percent of employees, the same as their percentage in the city’s population

Latinos comprise 25.4 percent of city workers and 25 percent of the population.

Asians make up 16.8 percent of city employees and 16 percent of the population.

An issue unaddressed by this week’s report is the racial make up of OPD commanders, which has a large impact on power relationships within the organization.

The Post has submitted a Public Records Act request for an organizational chart of OPD management structure and the ethnicity of officers who hold supervisory positions. The Post is also asking for the salaries of sworn officers and city of residence.

“There should be fair representation,” said District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo. “I believe that in each population there are qualified individuals who could take jobs in the city.”

In addition to ending race and ethnic disparities, the city needs to make sure that more Oakland residents are hired for police and other city jobs, he said.

“I grew up in Oakland at time when the police officer lived across the street from me,” Gallo said. “He’s the one who took me fishing and took the kids on the block fishing. Nowadays, so many city employees do not live in Oakland.”

District 7 Councilmember Desley Brooks, who heads the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, says she is seeking information on what OPD can do to improve recruitment of African Americans and other people of color.

“I think it’s important that we have a police force that’s reflective the community that it serves, “Brooks said. “That’s why I asked for a report, and we’re continuing to analyze the issues that are barriers to people getting access to these positions.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Hidden Geniuses Say, “Yes We Code”

Joe Brooks, of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, speaks during a town hall on technology and opportunity in Oakland, alongside Muhammad Abdulla and DeVon Franklin. Photo by Hasain Rasheed.

Joe Brooksof the Brotherhood of Elders Network speaks during a town hall meeting on technology and opportunity in Oakland, alongside Muhammad Abdulla and DeVon Franklin. Photo by Hasain Rasheed.

By Rasheed Shabazz

As a young child, Muhammad Abdulla worked as a farmer, planting seeds in Yemen. The work was difficult, but he knew it would define his future.

Upon returning to Oakland, where he was born a decade earlier, he believed the possibilities were endless.

“Anything is possible, if you put in work,” Abdulla said at the recent “Growing Hope in Oakland” town hall, organized by #YesWeCode on June 19 at the David Glover Education and Technology Center.

The 17-year-old coder is one of 20 youth participating in the coding pilot project by Oakland-based Hidden Genius Project.

#YesWeCode is bringing together various groups across the country with the goal of training 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become computer programmers.

The program began with an intergenerational dialogue focused on ways to make tech more diverse and inclusive. With Oakland being just miles away from Silicon Valley, it often seems like a world away.

Joe Brooks, a member of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, said new opportunities for financial independence and Black empowerment do exist in the tech field. While his generation focused on anti-poverty and other social services, the need now is for economic development, especially with people of color slated to be the national majority by 2040.

“We tried to get services, to service our way out of poverty,” Brooks said. He added that the changing technology means both a lot of uncertainty, yet opportunities still exist.

Oakland native, preacher and Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships. As a teen, he quit playing basketball to take a job with OCCUR, the organization which runs the David Glover Education and Technology Center.

As a student at USC, Franklin connected with an old college roommate of David Glover, the late director of OCCUR, who was a screenwriter. This connection led to an internship and a decade-long relationship with actor Will Smith. Franklin started his own production company, Franklin Entertainment, in 2014.

Too often Black entrepreneurs lack funding and other resources, said Monique Woodard who started “Black Founders,” a start-up dedicated to helping Black entrepreneurs get funding. She added that Black culture is popular in tech, though the Black cultural architects are excluded.

“Tech loves Black culture, but there are few of us in tech,” Woodard said. When Black entrepreneurs can successfully create viable products, get clients or users, gain funding and grow, and sell their businesses, they could then reinvest in other entrepreneurs, she said.

The panel continued with a life broadcast of MSNBC’s show, “The Cycle,” hosted by Touré.

The town hall was a part of the partnership between #YesWeCode, Hidden Genius Project, the David Glover Education and Technology Center and the Brotherhood of Elders Network, an intergenerational network of Black men focused on helping Black boys and men thrive.

 Courtesy of Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Eastlake Community Group Says “Fight Continues” to Stop E. 12th Street Luxury Tower

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

By Ken Epstein

A group of neighbors who are leading the fight against the luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt – Eastlake United for Justice – is saying it is determined to keep public pressure on the City Council to ensure that “they are making a is a sincere effort to secure low-uncome affordable housing on E. 12th St.”

Members of the Eastlake group said they were heartened by the city’s decision to issue a “Notice of Intent and Offer to Convey Property,” dated July 14, which implies that the city “has decided to comply with the law and put the parcel back out to bid, as the community has demanded from the very beginning,” according to the East Lake group’s media release.

But at the same time, “the fight continues,” the news release said, because they find a number of reasons for concern that the city is not seriously seeking affordable housing proposals to develop the parcel.

Complicating the process, the new notice is not a formal “Request for Proposals,” the usual way the city seeks applicants to purchase or lease property.

In addition, the press release said, “The city’s notice to developers does not mention an affordable housing requirement or priority. It gives just 60 days for proposals to be developed and submitted. And the notice was quietly distributed to a very limited list of agencies including very few housing developers and a handful of agencies that do not develop housing

“This looks like an attempt to comply with the bare minimum of the law to avoid a lawsuit, then hand the parcel back to UrbanCore for a luxury tower,” the news release said.

Asked about the new offer and the still existing proposed agreement with UrbanCore, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told the Post on Wednesday, “I have no comment on this project.

According to Councilmember Abel Guillon, who represents the district where the proposed project would be built, “The 60-day notice is not a cover for anything. It is merely an extra step of due diligence,”

He added: “I think the city’s practice is to consider all proposals, solicited and unsolicited.  The next step will depend on the nature of any responses the city receives to the notice.”

Guillen said the City Administrator and City Attorney will be reporting back to the council on the. parcel and its potential development.

Also questioned about the new project and why he city had not issued an RFPP was Patrick Lane, city Development/Redevelopment Program Manager of the Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

“It is what it is,” Lane told the Post. “It is letting people know there is an option for the site.”

He said the contract withi UrbanCore had not been passed by the City Council because the final vote had been postponed.

Lane said he had referred the Post’s questions to the City Attorney last week but had not received a reply.

The Post had asked: How will offers be prioritized? Will offers to build affordable housing be privileged? What is the city going to do with the agreement with UrbanCore , which was already approved by council at the first of two meetings?

Will UrbanCore have a priority for consideration under this notice?

The city had sent out its new offer to 18 agencies including the CA State Parks Department, AC Transit, P.G.& E., CALTRANS, the Oakland Unified School District , the East Bay Regional Parks District., Port of Oakland , BART and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

The San Francisco Foundation Donates $34 Million to Oakland Nonprofits

Huge grant will mean jobs, training and affordable housing

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) announced on Tuesday that it is donating $34 million dollars to a number of Oakland nonprofit community organizations, a gift of an anonymous donor.

TSFF, now headed by Fred Blackwell, former Oakland City administrator, is one of the largest community foundations in the country and gives out millions of dollars every year through grants and fellowship programs.

According to Jane Sullivan, the foundation’s vice president, this is the first time TSFF has made a donation of this scale.

“The foundation wanted to invest heavily in Oakland’s key organizations and infrastructure,” said Sullivan. “We know people in Oakland are being displaced and being withheld from tech opportunities. We are looking to help create the opportunities for those in Oakland that need it the most.”

The grants are estimated to result in 731 new affordable housing units being built, 2,502 new jobs created and ultimately 62,570 people served.

The foundation made the announcement of its awards at a well-attended press conference at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which provides support under-served youth in poor neighborhoods and one of the recipients a large donation.

Having recently made renovations and additions to their facility—including a more expansive wellness center, a dance room, and martial arts dojo—EODYC will use its $1 million grant to pay off the debt it accrued with one-third of what it is receiving from TSFF, said Regina Jackson, president of the center.

“With the $ 2 million grant we acquired from the foundation, Asian Health Services is devoted to expanding access to health services for underserved communities, newly-arrived immigrants and sexually exploited minors,” said Sherry Hirota, CEO of Asian Health Services.

“This includes establishing school-based clinics that help address issues of trauma that so many of youth experience in Oakland.”

The Unity Council received $3 million in support of building the second phase of the Fruitvale Transit Village, which will develop 270 units of housing in Fruitvale, 80 of which will be affordable housing.

Other beneficiaries included:

The EastSide Arts Alliance, which received $1 million to secure its building;

Urban Strategies Council, which was awarded $1.2 million to pay for CEO transition and low-income housing development;

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which received $1 million to support its Restore Oakland/Restaurant Opportunity Center;

Destiny Arts Center, which was awarded $1.3 million to eliminate the organization’s debt service, expand its work with incarcerated youth at the Alameda Juvenile Justice Center and increase participation of LGBTQ youth in the organization’s “Moving the Movement” program; and

A $4 million grant, which will support seven Oakland based high-tech programs: Black Girls Code, David Glover Center, Hack the Hood, Hidden Genius Project, Qeyno Labs, #YesWeCode and Youth Impact Hub – designed to ensure that a diverse workforce is available for technology employers.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland City Council Set to Choose Developer to Renovate Kaiser Convention Center

Rendering of proposed hotel between the Kaiser Convention Center and the Oakland Museum of California.

Rendering of CDP’s proposed hotel between the Kaiser Convention Center and the Oakland Museum of California.

By Ashley Chambers

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, a historic Oakland landmark that has been shuttered and vacant for a decade, will undergo a transformation as the City Council is expected to vote next week on which of two developers will restore the building.

The convention center previously housed large-scale events, concerts, and prominent speakers – Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke there in 1962, Stokely Carmichael in 1968, the Grateful Dead, James Brown, and the Oakland school district’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Fest.

The building includes a 45,000-square-foot arena that seats up to 6,000 people and the Calvin Simmons Theater that seats 1,900, two banquet rooms and a ballroom.

City staff is recommending that the city enter into a contract and long-term lease with Orton Development, Inc., which is based in Emeryville, to rehabilitate the convention center and its historic architecture.

Under the city plan, the developer would foot the bill for the entire project and would recoup its investment by using at least part of the building for profit-generating purposes.

The city’s RFP requires restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as a performance space and for the entire project to include “as many community benefits as possible,” including “local and small business participation, commitment to living and prevailing wages, commitment to labor peace and opportunities for job training and mentoring, a high number of jobs created for a range of training and education levels, and provision of high quality public facilities and amenities,” according to the city report.

Orton’s proposal, which is in accord with the city RFP, includes restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as an event space, and use of the arena as a “multi-floor rehab combining office, flex, public access, and food uses.”

The plan also proposes to use the surrounding outdoor space for community gardens, barbeque areas, public art and entertainment.

A coalition of community members and arts enthusiasts is opposing to the Orton proposal, saying the project would transform the arena – which is the majority of the interior of the building – into offices for private businesses.

The city’s RFP has suggested that the building could be used for offices, technology, design and private commercial use as well as entertainment, conference and event space, retail uses, performance space, and light industrial uses such as a brewery, maker spaces, and artist studios.

The alternative proposal came from Creative Development Partners (CDP), based in Oakland. It includes restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater as a world-class performing arts center and use of the arena for sporting and other large events, and paying for the project by building a 15-story hotel adjacent to the Convention Center.

The hotel would be nestled in between the Oakland Museum and the convention center on park land that is presently a parking lot, incorporating a green design.

The CDP proposal is built around community benefits, including: creating more than 1,700 jobs and a career training program in partnership with Laney and Merritt Colleges for jobs in hospitality, culinary arts, creative arts, and landscaping, as well as a partnership with the Oakland Unified School District’s Linked Learning program.

The CDP proposal, called “One Lake Merritt,” envisions the building as a hub for local music, cultural and performing arts companies to use as rehearsal and performance space.

The proposal has garnered significant support from the local arts community. But while city staff found the CDP proposal “compelling,” they are recommending that the city go with the Orton plan and look for other potential sites for a hotel.

The City Council is expected to vote on the issue on Tuesday, July 7.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Councilmembers Reluctantly Pass Stop Gap WIB Budget

They say they want to revisit the budget by Sept. 30

 By Ken Epstein

City Councilmembers this week reluctantly approved a new Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB) budget for 2015-2017 that will make drastic cuts in jobs and job training programs for youth and unemployed adults.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Unhappy with the cuts to services for jobseekers, councilmembers also voted to hold a meeting before Sept. 30 to revisit and amend the WIB budget submitted by city staff.

Councilmembers on the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee said at their Tuesday meeting that they had no choice but to temporarily pass the budget in order to keep the flow of funds for jobs and training programs from being interrupted,

Carroll Fife

Carroll Fife

The proposed WIB budget will now go to the full council for approval,

Councilmembers said they want to meet in the fall to discuss the concerns raised by community members and representatives of nonprofits that operate programs in the community.

The top concern of the speakers at Tuesday’s CED meeting was that the WIB is making deep cuts in its budget and program that are not justified by the tiny reduction of federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) jobs funding that pays for Oakland’s programs.

According to WIB Executive Director John Bailey, while the federal money was only reduced by 1.3 percent compared with last year, the WIB budget is reducing money for youth by 15 percent and funding for adult programs by up to 24 percent.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Another major issue is that the city diverts too much of the money to pay for its administrative staff. Speakers at the meeting complained that the city takes 32 percent off the top for overhead, and the city makes no contributions to support the programs.

Pressed for specifics by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Bailey could not explain why so much of job funds are used to pay for city staff.

Councilmembers said they want the WIB to come to the fall meeting with a detailed explanation of how it spends the money that is diverted from direct services to Oakland residents.

Speakers also complained that the WIB does not provide adequate

Agnes Ubalde

Agnes Ubalde

opportunity for the public to participate in the budget process, saying that public meetings are held at 8:30 a.m., making attendance impossible for many people who work or who are looking for work.

“It doesn’t make any sense that Oakland has its funding cut by less than 2 percent, and the service providers will be reduced by 15 to 24 percent – this budget is the antithesis of the values expressed by this council,” said Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council.

Speaking at the meeting, Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee, said that when her husband was unemployed, he went to many job agencies and got a runaround. But when he went to the PIC, he was listened to, treated humanely and helped.

The city needs to support these services that are more effective than 100 new cops to combat crime and support unemployed workers and their families, Brooks said. “Or are we going to keep repeating this pattern of murder, incarceration and demoralization?”

The WIB board is dysfunctional, said community member Carroll Fife. “I have been barred from attending these meetings, and service providers say they feel they will be retaliated against if they speak up.”

Defending the work of the board was WIB Chair Agnes Ubalde, vice president and community development officer of Wells Fargo Bank.

“Our board is transparent. Our budget process is open,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)