City Jobs for City Residents

Posted by Al Hathaway Thursday, July 12, 2012


Had an interesting meeting last night before the Baltimore City Council's Committee on Finance, Taxation, and Economic Development, Chaired by Councilman Carl Stokes. A presentation was made for the committee to approve a PILOT for a project known as The Superblock. The organization, of which I am a principal, Community Churches for Community Development has been working with the developer and various stakeholders for over a year crafting an Economic Inclusion Plan that ensures local hiring of Baltimore City residents.

The EIP was ratified by a number of prominent organizations with the developer.

Attending the meeting were a number of community activists that were advocating for local hiring. They organized a number of people and banded together under the name Community Churches for Baltimore Jobs, a group supported by the labor's union. An interesting footnote is over a year and a half; I was instrumental in founding CCBJ by sponsoring local training at Union Baptist Church. I felt then, as I do now, people should be organized to pursue a wide range of job opportunities, in addition to the periodic redevelopment projects that may come on-line from time to time. I believe CCBJ only sees job opportunities within the construction trades, primarily as laborers.

I depart from that point of view and believe local residents should be trained and prepared for a wide range of job opportunities. There are a number of job opportunities attainable right now through working with existing job-creation systems.

For example, the Mayor's Office of Employment Development has a listing of jobs, which are available from day to day. A focus upon that agency to improve its system of job training, referral, and delivery, I believe, would yield far greater results than to mobilize persons to advocate for local hiring on a construction job which is limited in duration even if obtained. Furthermore, a protest today does not lead to a job tomorrow.

During testimony a cry was made for city jobs for local residents. I flashed back to my early days cutting my teeth organizing within Baltimore's community. Over thirty years ago, I worked to place on referendum the law that would have mandated "City Jobs for City Residents." This law was specifically directed to government funded jobs working for the City of Baltimore. It would have required the Baltimore City Police, Fire Department, Mayor's Office and every Baltimore City government worker who received a paycheck from working for a government agency to live in Baltimore City. It was a hard-fought campaign.

The community lost that fight over thirty years ago and today the effects of that lost are seen in only 15% +/- of the Baltimore Fire Department staff living in the City of Baltimore; less than, 25% of the Baltimore City Police Department staff living in the City of Baltimore, and it continues through every department of City government, including the Mayor's office, where employees who work for the City of Baltimore live outside of the jurisdiction.

If we had won that fight over 30 years ago, we would have a far different city today.

After that flashback moment, I focused again upon the discussion and debate that was going on last night and reasoned that the community activists and community residents who took the time to become engaged in the public hearing did the right thing. The battle for full employment for residents of Baltimore City will require the persistent, strategic, and intestinal fortitude to stay in the struggle for another 30 years to achieve the desired results of full employment for City residents. I wonder how many of my fellow advocates will be testifying for the same issue just 3 years from now. To prevent going around the mulberry bush of chasing construction job opportunities, we need to enhance the system of job delivery within this City and ensure residents are ready, able and willing to work whenever a job opportunity presents itself regardless of the job sector it from which it emanates. 

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