Oakland School’s Local Business Program Recognized as Best Practice to Stimulate Local Economy
Oaklanders love Oakland and have demonstrated this love to Oakland’s schools by passing bond measures to fund modernization and new construction.
Recently, Measure J passed with 80 percent of the vote, designating $475 million dollars to modernize school facilities.
Well, now Oakland residents have something else to be happy about. Over half of the businesses hired to update and modernize schools for the District are Oakland-based.
The district put “Oakland first” and adopted a “local business utilization” plan in order to maximize community involvement and growth. So far, the results have been good news for schools, small businesses, and the local economy.
“Partnering with local businesses in Oakland is key to building a stronger district and a stronger community,” said Dr. Devin Dillon, Interim Superintendent of Oakland Schools.
“Working together creates opportunity for our diverse populations to unite and benefit each other,” she said. “It also supports our District-wide shared value of cultural responsiveness.”
When the Board of Education passed its first Local Business Policy, after receiving local control back from the state, only 6 percent of the businesses being utilized were local.
Luckily the district had some help to boost that percentage. It partnered with an Oakland-based management firm with an emphasis on building local connections and community. 360 Total Concept is an Oakland-based business headed by Oakland native Shonda Scott.
On this project, Scott helped facilitate Oakland’s plan of “local business utilization,” or “LBU.”
“We have the best interests of the community and the district in mind,” said Scott. “We provide independent support for the programs to help the District meet and exceed its local utilization requirements.”
In order to count as a local business with the district or City of Oakland, a business must first be certified. 360, in partnership with the district and city, tackled this by hosting workshops to guide owners through the process of certification and which documents and requirements were needed.
This advocacy also helped Oakland overall by adding more taxable revenue.
“Prior to local business policy, 94 percent of the businesses doing business with district were from outside of Oakland,” Scott said. “That means all that local voter money was not being recycled back into the community.”
To rectify this, the School Board increased the local business requirement on the district’s Capital Program to a minimum of 50 percent. Now, with the help of 360, the district’s Capital program is exceeding 50 percent LBU, with up to 70 percent on some projects.
“That’s money going back into Oakland and strengthening the community,” Scott said.
This LBU program in Oakland schools has been so successful that a study by the Canadian “Democracy Collaborative” designated it in its “best practices” recommendation for communities seeking similar synergy.
The study found that approaches like the one Oakland Unified is taking helps not only local businesses but also stimulates the local economy.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Scott said.
Oakland Quickly Responds to Tenants’ Rights Issues with Emergency Measures
Councilmember Kaplan promises to address jobs and economic opportunity
The Oakland City Council this week passed an emergency renter protection ordinance and voted to make Dec. 2 an annual Remembrance Day for the victims of the Ghost Ship fire.
The renter protection ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, increases relocation payments for tenants who are displaced as a result of building code compliance repairs, regardless of whether the living space is permitted.
Property owners whose tenants are forced to vacate a unit due to building code renovations are required to pay the tenants the cost of moving based on market rate prices of relocation units.
This rule only applies if the code violations were not caused by the tenant.
“This does not apply only to artists or to warehouses,” said Kaplan on Monday night.
“This is an ordinance that was being worked on before the fire. Communities of color all over Oakland have been displaced due to code enforcement, whether it’s for lead paint or other repairs,” she said.
Tenants rights advocates pointed out, however, that if the city doesn’t allocate money in its budget to implement the law, there may be several scenarios where landlords are unable to pay the relocation fees and the city won’t be able to help.
With available funds from the city, the ordinance has more strength.
Following the Ghost Ship fire, the city’s warehouse residents, Black community leaders and local policymakers quickly began putting together solutions for the housing affordability crisis.
Mayor Libby Schaaf earlier this month issued a temporary executive order that requires property owners to enter into a 60-day compliance plan if their buildings are found to be unpermitted for living.
The city’s move was intended to prevent tenants living in those spaces from being evicted by offering to work with landlords to bring their buildings up to code.
The Post, in conjunction with Councilmember Kaplan, also held a special Town Hall meeting to hear community speakers and offer solutions to the city’s homelessness, housing affordability crisis and joblessness.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Post publisher Paul Cobb noted that while city officials are quickly addressing renter protection, there has not been the same level of urgency with regards to jobs and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly for the city’s Black residents.
“The quick responses gotten from the city, including an executive action from the mayor, show your attentiveness to the public,” Cobb said to the council.
“We hope that the council will also include emergency response needs to resources for employment because tenants have to be able to afford to live in affordable housing.”
Kaplan assured those at the council meeting that she intends to bring solutions to joblessness to the City Council.
“Tonight is not the end. I intend to work on some of the other issues to promote economic justice and access to jobs in the community,” Kaplan said.
The Oakland Warehouse Coalition and Land Action have drafted an emergency tenant protection ordinance that places a moratorium on evictions from commercially zoned properties, unless there are immediate life-threatening conditions.
The emergency ordinance has not yet been scheduled to come before the City Council but is expected to soon.