At council meeting: the World Cup, teen centers and racial disparities
on November 4, 2009
Oakland as a future soccer World Cup host, racial disparity in the awarding of city contracts, and a possible teen youth center in West Oakland were among the discussion items at Oakland’s City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The Council of Chambers at Oakland’s City Hall had a sparse audience when the meeting began, but people gradually filled the seats as the night progressed. Council members lined the front of the room, with Ignacio De La Fuente absent from the meeting.
Oakland soccer fans may be happy to know that the council unanimously passed a resolution to continue bidding to be one of eighteen United States cities to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. Council member Larry Reid was an avid proponent of the item and the 5,000-8,000 jobs it could produce. He said that people can go to the city’s web site, OaklandNet.com to sign a petition in support.
Scott Peterson, Director of Public Policy at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce delivered a statement to the council saying that his organization believes Oakland represents the world community in terms of its diversity, and that they hope to work with the council, and the business and soccer-playing community to make Oakland competitive in the bid.
“Some of us may not be around this table in nine years, but we can certainly put our dream out there, ” said councilmember Jean Quan. Council President Jane Brunner said she thought bidding for the World Cup was “great,” but that council members need to know more about the details and costs of hosting the event.
Another item on the agenda included the presentation by Eleanor Mason Ramsey, president of an Oakland-based public policy research and public relations company Mason Tilman Associates, who was hired by the city to conduct a study on racial disparities in the awarding of Oakland city contracts.
“Minorities are under-utilized,” said Ramsey, stating conclusions found in her company’s research. She said that their research shows systemic discrimination in the city and that African Americans in particular are under-utilized in jobs that include construction and professional services.
Contract bundling was a theme of the discussion that followed Ramsey’s presentation. East Bay Small Business Council CEO Darrel Carey said in an interview outside the council meeting that in Oakland, a few large construction companies are now given full packaged projects, including stripping asphalt, paving roads and painting new lines, rather than dividing smaller jobs amongst separate companies.
There are a few companies in the city that get the bids for nearly all of Oakland’s construction projects, said Carey. In contrast, smaller businesses and skilled employees have less of an opportunity to work on these projects. “There tend to be two or three contractors who over and over, get those contracts,” said councilmember Patricia Kernighan.
Carey said small construction companies often don’t have the time or financial means to work through the bureaucracy involved in bidding on a public project. Carey fervently reminded the council that a disparity study needs to happen every two years, as the Oakland City Charter mandates. He later said that no one has done a study on disparity in city contracts in seven years.
Later that evening, West Oakland community members made statements in support of creating a West Oakland teen center in the Hoover Historic District. City Council Neighborhood Initiative’s community building coordinator Africa Williams said that they are trying to create a supportive neighborhood for youth. She said a teen center would include a library, computer lab, and social space, and offer youth support in finding employment. “The negativity, the justice issues, the prostitution,” said Williams. “These things start to melt away as we try to build neighborhoods.”
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