Thursday, August 04, 2011

Beyond the over-hyped CBA: Bloomberg announces new plan to address jobs and training for young black and Latino men; response includes a good measure of skepticism (too little, too late?)

Once upon a time, Atlantic Yards and its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was portrayed as solving a decent chunk of social problems in Brooklyn. Actually, that was pretty recent; then-Governor David Paterson, at the March 2010 arena groundbreaking, declared, “As the buildings rise on Atlantic Yards, the joblessness rate will fall here in Brooklyn.”

Maybe a somewhat comprehensive strategy is necessary.

A front-page article in today's New York Times, Bloomberg to Use Own Funds in Plan to Aid Minority Youth (or in print "City Campaign Seeks to Lift Young Black and Latino Men"), reports:
The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New York’s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances.

The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed.

To pay for the endeavor in a time of fiscal austerity, the city is relying on an unusual source: Mr. Bloomberg himself, who intends to use his personal fortune to cover about a quarter of the cost, city officials said. A $30 million contribution from Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation would be matched by that of a fellow billionaire, George Soros, a hedge fund manager, with the remainder being paid for by the city.

Starting this fall, the administration said it would place job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes where many young black and Latino men live, retrain probation officers in an effort to reduce recidivism, establish new fatherhood classes and assess schools on the academic progress of male black and Latino students.
Not an easy task

Citing Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, the Times noted it's not an easy task:
The challenge, Professor Anderson said, will be persuading New York’s businesses to embrace these young men and offer them permanent employment after the city’s work is completed. “Companies have to be much more receptive to these young people and meet people like Bloomberg halfway,” he said.

The administration’s plan, developed after a year of study and debate, spans much of the city’s bureaucracy and multiple stages in the lives of the men it is trying to reach, beginning in middle school and ending with career counseling.
There are also some common-sense changes: the city’s Probation Department would open five satellite probation offices closer to their clients and men who often lack driver’s licenses or state identification cards will be encouraged to gain them.

The personal approach

Bloomberg, who often seems receptive to the whispered priorities of those in his own social class, was apparently brought down to earth during one of his carefully limited--getting driven to the express stop--subway commutes.

The Times reports:
Mr. Bloomberg urged his aides to study the experiences of black and Latino men in 2010. The aides said he was especially surprised and unsettled by statistics showing how frequently many of the men returned to the city’s prisons — an issue that became personal for the mayor after a stranger pulled him aside on the subway and told him his story: he was 45, black, a convict and unemployed. Mr. Bloomberg asked Dennis M. Walcott, now the schools chancellor, to check in periodically with the man, who was later arrested again.
Reader support and skepticism

Times readers were quite mixed in their responses. A few excerpts below, emphasizing the skeptical.

PGE1937:
If mayor Bloomberg (himself worth some 20 billion dollars) and George Soros feel so strongly about this cause, why don't they simply foot 100% of the 130 million dollars themselves instead of only 50%!
Marcus:
If we REALLY want to improve things let's begin with: creating public schools with resources comparable to those in the private schools to which people such as Bloomberg and Soros send their children; eliminate laws and policing practices that disproportionately target Black and Latino men; and remove other racist structures in employment, "civic" life, etc.; rectify today's enormous racial wealth gap that can be attributed, in large part, to slavery and jim crow.
Tony Glover:
Made me cry reading about this. I remember growing up in NYC as a young black teenager. You found hope where you could, but even back then (late 70's), summer job programs and youth programs were much more plentiful. It's horribly bleak out there for many teens and young men of color today.
JEFF S:
Is part of this an effort on his part to undo the damage that has been done to what he claimed to be the most important accomplishment of his tenure as mayor namely his insistance that the schools had improved and that his policies had bridged the achievement gap when it has been shown it was all one big lie perpetrated by phony test results. Is this, therefore, an effort to repair his place in history?
maria5553:
Under bloomberg the NYPD arrested an average of 93 people a day for minor marijuana offenses, predominantly black and latino men were arrested, under him NYPD operated the lucky bag program arresting people for finding decoy bags, his police force collected the DNA of black and latino men at the point of arrest not conviction and he fought against a law that would stop this practice , he always fought against living wages for his beloved community development projects and now he thinks he's going to do damage control????
Eak:
Mr. Mayor, we already have a mechanism to help people looking for jobs. It's called the New York City Human Resources Administration. I'm afraid that your efforts only deepen my suspicion that this agency is beyond repair.
GAX:
I would be more impressed if he made a commitment to investing in young new yorkers BEFORE they get into trouble. he's spent his entire tenure as mayor squeezing the life out of after school programs, art music and performance in schools, and community centers. as a result he has directly contributed to the abundant incarceration of ny's youth. and now he wants to put money to helping them after jail? too little too late.
E. B.:
His Bloomberg terminals are the nerve center of a financial system that has done incalculable damage to the global economy and pushed millions into poverty. The mayor's personal fortune based on his majority ownership in Bloomberg has doubled during his first seven years in office. It's nice that he's giving back a small amount of the fortune he's amassed but it's still a drop in the bucket.

It would be far more meaningful and productive if the mayor used his bully pulpit to push back against the banks that have foreclosed on so many homes and become an agent for sound financial policy. I'd like to see him stand up for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and meaningful derivatives reform.

Of course, the mayor will do none of these things because he's a businessman first, a politician second, and a philanthropist when it suits him. In the end, he's just another oligarch who can afford to buy goodwill.

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