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Mayor and staff bask in the glow of the stimulus

on December 10, 2009

Mayor Ronald Dellums and members of his staff appeared before the City Council Tuesday night to present a report on the status of federal stimulus dollars Oakland has received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Oakland has received $23 million in awards through the stimulus package. Oakland was second overall only to Chicago, which received $36 million in stimulus funding. “We’re second to Chicago. That’s the President’s home,” Dellums said. “I’ll take second to that any day.”

City staff compared Oakland’s progress in receiving federal aid to nine U.S. cities, including San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, and Sacramento. Oakland was awarded more grant money than any other California city.

Dellums praised city workers for the long hours spent applying for grants, noting that the work has not been “family friendly.” “I want to applaud the dedicated staff of people who work for the city,” Dellums told the council. “They are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats. They are beautiful hard-working people working 24 hours a day.”

Creating long-term problem-solving solutions and fostering collaboration between various Oakland and regional and state agencies were two large challenges Dellums said the city staff had to overcome to successfully apply and receive so much assistance. “The process is cumbersome,” Dellums said, recalling a conversation he had recently with President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. “We have to write grants for little money. But Oakland has risen above.”

Dellums promised the council a letter from his office in the coming days to fully explain the staff report.

Among the people who came to speak about the city’s stimulus funding were students of the Cypress Mandela Training Center, a West Oakland pre-apprenticeship center that focuses on construction training. The program’s executive director, Art Shanks, thanked the mayor and city staff for providing stimulus funds to aid the program. “Without this funding, it would be impossible to train our students,” Shanks told the council.

Eight students, wearing work clothes and yellow hard hats, attended the meeting with Shanks and other program leaders. They stood in a semi-circle behind Shanks as he addressed the council.

“Are you ready?” Shanks asked the students as he concluded his remarks.

“Yes sir!” the eight students said in unison.

In other business, the council approved new five-year implementation plans for six Oakland redevelopment areas. Members from the Coliseum redevelopment area were on hand to encourage the council to approve the plans. “We want to see a difference being made,” said Oakland resident Etha Jones. “Not just words being said, but an actual difference.”

The council also authorized a grant of $182,000 to be put toward the installation of a sculpture in Fox Square Park in the Uptown neighborhood. A lengthy debate preceded the passage, with council members deciding that the money would be given toward the sculpture if the developer of the project can pay for continued maintenance.

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