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Another round of national jobs numbers came out May 3 from the Labor Department, received with a mixture of relief— “Whew, at least there’s some growth”—and concern that it’s just not enough.

But in some communities, such as Oakland, people aren’t waiting for outsiders to fix the jobs crisis. Revive Oakland, a coalition of thirty community, faith, and labor organizations, convened by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), an affiliate of the Partnership for Working Families, took things into their own hands to bring good jobs to Oakland.

Their method was to make sure the community’s needs were met when developers courted local officials for financial help on new construction projects. It’s a form of community empowerment that’s emerged in the last fifteen years, sometimes called “accountable development.” This means economic development projects accountable to the broader community, not just a developer’s owners and investors.

The tactic is summed up in a simple slogan: “It’s our money and we want a seat at the table.”

Developers often need public financial support—for roadwork or sewers, job training, environmental cleanup, low-interest loans, tax breaks. To get public support, they trumpet the number of people they’ll employ.

A stellar example is the redevelopment of the abandoned Oakland Army Base, a half-square-mile of underutilized public land adjoining the busy Port of Oakland. CCIG, a local company and Prologis, a global corporation, envisioned converting it into a technologically advanced mega-warehouse complex to complement Port business.

Instead of bringing typical warehouse jobs to Oakland—meaning low pay, dangerous work, relying on temporary and part-time employees without benefits—the coalition set out to ensure the developer’s vision included good jobs.

The Oakland Army Base development was perfect for accountable development. It was a large project on very visible land, requiring a few thousand people to build and then staff the enormous warehouse complex. There were many strong unions, social justice groups and community organizations with deep local roots.

Ultimately thirty organizations came together as the Revive Oakland coalition, convened by EBASE. After five years of negotiations, the developer, city and community all signed off late last year on contracts with enforceable community benefits.

The package includes a “living wage” for all jobs, plus commitments that at least half those hired would be from Oakland and a quarter qualify as disadvantaged. A new job center is included to bring Oakland residents into the jobs pipeline. A monitoring board, with community representation, will enforce the agreements.

New ground was broken by a ban on employers pre-screening job applicants for criminal records, a huge breakthrough in a community where too many have gone through the court system. A share of construction jobs will go to new union apprentices from Oakland.

The eventual warehouse tenants will be limited in their use of temporary workers and must hire locally. It’s the first time in the US the warehouse industry will have to meet such job quality standards.

Oakland’s success reinforces basic principles of accountable development: ambitious goals; a community role in monitoring and enforcement; treating developers as potential partners.

As ground breaks on the project this year, Revive Oakland and EBASE are pushing to turn these words on paper into real jobs on the ground.  The City of Oakland just committed a half a million dollars to the jobs center and the monitoring board. In the coming months, an effective nonprofit operator will be selected to run the jobs center and the city will seat the monitoring board.  And, hopefully, the Port of Oakland will expand the jobs pipeline by applying similar expectations to its half of the Army Base project.

With a strong community coalition, government assistance for a project comes at a price: enforceable contracts for good jobs and community benefits. This is a way to build community power and help ensure that new jobs actually meet community needs.

This article was printed on May 9 in the "My Word" section of the Oakland Tribune, The Contra Costa Times, and MercuryNews.com.

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Comment Preferences

  •  West Oakland: Bay Area's best kept secret (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smileycreek

    "Closer to San Francisco than San Francisco."

    I live 2 blocks away. IF there is no traffic on the bridge (a big if at certain times of the day) I can be in downtown SF in about 7-8 minutes.

    West Oakland BART is the only station that every train in the system run thru, you can get to any station from here without transferring.

    There is an incredible housing stock of old Edwardian/Victorian homes in West Oakland in varying stages of disrepair, right next to a lot of large warehouses. Warehouse-to-loft conversion is in process. The artists are already colonizing, since it is one of the cheapest parts of the Bay. Gentrification is probably right behind.

    Never mind that Oakland is the 4th most dangerous city in the US, with 131 homicides last year, 12 of them children.

    Never mind that Oakland Unified School District was taken over by the state years ago as a 'failed school system' and a highly paid administrator brought in from Kern County (think Bakersfield) to run the district, close schools and sell off buildings and land.

    Never mind that Oakland Police are famous for their tactics. The new guy, Jordan, that came on board  when Jean Quan came in, recently resigned 'for health reasons'. That was right before the consultants (including William Bratton) were coming in to 'offer crime-reduction solutions'.

    Jerry Brown thought he could solve some of Oakland's thorniest problems in his 2 terms as mayor. While he did do a lot of good work, the 2 mayors since then (Ron Dellums one term, Jean Quan right now) not so much. Its interesting that Dellums and Quan had left/liberal cred and are seen as abysmal mayors.

    West Oakland: home of the Black Panthers. Looks like there is enough of a grass roots coalition out there to make a project like this EBASE happen. I will be interested to see what the place looks like in 5 years.

  •  There is a local group of SFkossacks here, Leslie (0+ / 0-)

    in case you want to network with some of the local writers.

    Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

    Oh, I used to be disgusted
    Now I try to be amused
    ~~ Elvis Costello

    by smileycreek on Wed May 15, 2013 at 09:39:21 AM PDT

  •  This is an outstanding diary but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack

    I think the title undersells its importance. This is not just a local Oakland issue, this is an excellent blueprint for the kind of real community work that needs to be done all around the country.  My concern is that due to the diary's title, not enough people will read it thinking it is a local issue that doesn't really concern them. But everybody needs to read this.

    I hope this diary gets rescued, and I will send it along to the Evening Blues editor and hopefully he'll promote it there.

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

    by Oaktown Girl on Wed May 15, 2013 at 12:39:53 PM PDT

    •  You are totally right, Oaktown Girl! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe shikspack

      I'm actually the executive director of the Partnership for Working Families, which is mentioned in my post.  EBASE is just one member of our network -- we have affiliates in cities throughout the country doing this same kind of community work.  Thanks for helping me promote the post -- I'm new to DailyKos!

      •  Thanks for your reply (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joe shikspack

        If this doesn't get seen by many people, I highly recommend you do a slight edit (focus on how this is a good blueprint for other communities to follow and possibly how people can get involved and get empowered where they are), and re-post next week with a new diary title reflecting that.

        I would be more than happy to help you with this. You can contact me through this website using the "Kos Mail" system (click on my name, then click on "send message". Make sure your DKos account is set up to alert you via email when you have a Kos Message waiting for you). It really would not take very long and I think, given the material, it's definitely worth the effort. There are a lot of eyeballs here at Daily Kos, you just have to grab them.

        “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

        by Oaktown Girl on Wed May 15, 2013 at 04:34:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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