Dear President Obama,
The people of Oakland would like to welcome you back to our town.
You may have heard about a few things happening in Oakland since your last visit: hundreds of families pushed out of their homes by foreclosure; the still-too-high incarceration rate for young people and the even higher drop-out rate; our high-profile local Occupy movement that captured the hearts and minds of thousands.
But what you might not know is that one of the most innovative development deals of the decade is happening here in Oakland.
It's true: like many cities in America, we've been struggling with the effects of unemployment and low-wage jobs for years. The economic downturn has hit us hard, but today, we are holding our heads high.
We have a plan to put our people to work. Earlier this month, our City Council approved a historic redevelopment deal for the former Oakland Army Base, with unprecedented jobs standards that will provide thousands of sustainable opportunities for our generation and the next.
The project will transform the massive site, which stretches southward from the foot of the Bay Bridge, into a warehouse center and working waterfront serving the adjacent port. The deal struck with local developer CCIG and global corporation Prologis includes at least $300 million in public resources and is expected to produce more than 2,800 construction jobs and 2,000 operations positions.
It's incredible package -- different than anything we've won in Oakland and groundbreaking for the warehouse industry -- that could really bring a brighter future to my neighbors who have been struggling from the lack of investment and job opportunity for too long.
Without these jobs standards, we run the risk that this project could provide little meaningful benefit for communities struggling with poverty and unemployment. The warehousing industry has received recent attention for depressing wages by outsourcing work through temporary staffing agencies. Many of our friends and neighbors have experienced the criminal (in)justice system and repeatedly find themselves locked out of economic opportunity even after serving their time.
When we create jobs, especially ones with public investment, we need to provide real opportunities for everyone. That's what makes this deal so special.
Every worker in this project will be paid a living wage (currently $11.35 with health benefits, and $13.05 without health benefits). Plus, the majority of the warehouse jobs will be long-term hires, not temporary ones, creating more stable jobs and stable families.
Most employers in the project won't ask about criminal records on the front end (a practice that usually ends up with your application in the trash). This way everyone can get their foot in the door to get a good job.
To make sure our people are ready, a jobs center will be created -- a place where jobs seekers can get connected to services and training and where employers can find workers who are ready to go.
This deal couldn't have happened without an investment of time and resources from our local community organizations, labor movement, government officials and the developers. Through the process, a common vision emerged: public investment matched with private capital can and should lift all boats, if the expectations to create shared prosperity are made clear.
As you continue your efforts to lead our country out of the recession, we hope you can take a page from our book. There are no easy fixes. We have to be real about the tough problems we face and determined to find solutions that work. But, together we can achieve things that no one thought was possible.
I'm proud to call the Town my home, and I'm proud of what our community has accomplished.
And we're not stopping here. Come back again in a few years and see for yourself: a shiny new jobs center putting our people to work; warehouses with my nephews driving the forklifts in them; and a thriving community built on an inclusive economy for all.
I'm proud to be an Oakland-American.