Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Groups Call for More Spending on Housing, Homeless Services, and Worker Protections in Oakland Budget

By Darwin BondGraham
Tue, May 9, 2017 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Chris Jackson said more funds are needed for homeless services and affordable housing.
  • Chris Jackson said more funds are needed for homeless services and affordable housing.

A coalition of Oakland-based labor unions and nonprofits rallied on the steps of Oakland City Hall today calling for a city budget that spends more on affordable housing, homeless services, minimum wage enforcement, and arts and culture, among other things.

The groups said Mayor Libby Schaaf's proposed budget doesn't do enough to fund programs that benefit low-income Oaklanders.

"We need a budget that addresses displacement, homelessness, low wages, and that funds city services," said Gary Jimenez, the vice president of the union SEIU 1021, which represents city employees. Many SEIU 1021 members live in Oakland.

Jimenez said more money should be spent helping the city's contracts and compliance department investigate violations of the minimum wage and sick leave laws that were approved by voters in 2014. SEIU 1021 supported the minimum wage law.

Schaaf's proposed budget adds $291,000 to hire one extra contracts and compliance officer for minimum wage enforcement for the next two years.

But the groups also want a $500,000 contract with numerous nonprofits to be extended for another two years. The nonprofit contractors have done education and outreach for workers and employers about the minimum wage law, and helped investigate potential violations.

"Low wage workers are having hundreds of thousands, millions, stolen from them," said Derek Schoonmaker of Centro Legal de la Raza, one of the organizations that has worked with the city.

Chris Jackson, an activist with ACCE, said Oakland should be setting aside money to acquire buildings for low income housing, and to open a homeless services navigation center.

"We need to end the criminalization of our homeless," said Jackson. "Stop taking down their tents."

The mayor's budget proposal relies on $7 million in grant funding for homeless services, and proposes adding another $500,000 over the next two years from the general fund.

Business owner and former city councilmember from West Oakland, Nancy Nadel, said that the $250,000 increase in Schaaf's budget for homeless services is a "drop in the bucket" compared to what's necessary.

The groups are also calling for the creation of a "building acquisition fund" that could be used to purchase SRO hotels and operate them as low-income transitional housing for those at risk of becoming homeless.

Jimenez also said that the promises of Measure JJ, the strengthened rent control and evictions protections that Oakland voters approved last year, aren't being fulfilled because the city hasn't done enough outreach and education.

The groups said an additional $1.45 million should be spent on "eviction defense for tenants and enforcement of the Tenant Protection Ordinance," and they are also seeking an added $500,000 for emergency rental assistance for low-income tenants, among other things.

The city council will take up the budget at its May 16 meeting.

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