By Ken A. Epstein
When the Oakland City Council reconvenes in September, it will be deciding on a proposal by Councilmember Desley Brooks to use the city’s public website to strengthen enforcement of a policy requiring developers to hire locally for jobs on the Oakland Army Base project, which has been projected to produce opportunities for thousands of workers.
The proposal would require all contractors and subcontractors on the project to submit a listing each week of names and addresses of all workers, and “the workforce information shall be posted, in real time, on a website which the public may view.”
If the city puts the listings of hiring on a website on a weekly basis for people to see, “We can make corrections on the front end, and we don’t have to have sanctions,” said Brooks at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“It is important to us that Oaklanders get jobs – it helps with our public safety issues and circulates dollars” in the community,” she said.
While it was supposed to be decided on this week, the vote on the resolution was postponed because two council members were absent, and without them, supporters lacked the votes for passage.
A section of the original resolution, as written by Brooks, provided for increased punishments for contactors that failed to live up to the jobs agreements. However, that section was removed earlier in a council committee meeting and referred to city staff to negotiate with the developers.
Councilmember Jane Bruner, who had worked closely with community groups to pass the jobs policy for the Army Base project, said the months and years of work could go down the drain without any enforcement language.
“If we don’t have a process for tracking hiring in a timely manner … we are not going to get local hire,” she said.
Councilmember Pat Kernighan opposed the resolution.
“I think that it sends a bad message,” she said. “I would like to suggest our staff to continue to negotiate with the developer to work out the nuts and bolts of this reporting requirement. It needs to be a bilateral thing.”
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente also opposed the proposal, saying if the city kept making demands on the developers, it could end up without a project or jobs.
“The coalition spent years negotiating this,” he said. “ I think that at some point it has got to be finalized. I will not vote to change anything.”
One speaker, Ken Houston, supported the resolution.
This kind of weekly tracking “will help contactors stay out of trouble,” he said. “As a contactor, I support this.”
“If this had been used in the Fox Theater ” renovation project, the developer “would have known he didn’t reach the goals” and have been to fix the problem, Houston said.
“Weekly web reports would give us real-time information and make it possible to make timely corrections,” said Port Commission Margaret Gordon, speaking at the meeting.