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Pasadena Sees Year-Old Jobs Program Fade

November 29, 1987|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — A year ago, two city directors proposed what they billed as a comprehensive plan to ease unemployment.

Under their proposal, the city would have levied fees on developers and used that money to establish an employment program aimed at putting jobless Pasadena residents, particularly those in the depressed northwest, to work.

Their plan was met with a storm of protest from angry members of the Chamber of Commerce, who called it costly, dictatorial and anti-business.

As a compromise, Directors Rick Cole and Loretta Thompson-Glickman agreed to back a program that relied on the chamber to urge its members to hire Pasadena residents, who hold only 15% of the jobs in downtown office buildings, according to city statistics.

The compromise program, called Joint Occupational Business Services (JOBS), was admittedly short on "teeth," but Cole and Thompson-Glickman believed that it was better for the city and chamber to work together than to fight.

Today, the JOBS program has failed to materialize, a victim of what Cole and others concede to be political inertia and a lack of leadership on the part of both the city and the chamber.

Nothing Accomplished

Beyond the mere announcement of the program, which was to have coordinated all city employment programs and sought hiring agreements with businesses, nothing has been done.

"We're trying to get it back on track, but we've clearly lost a lot of momentum," Cole said.

The need for a comprehensive program to combat unemployment came to light in 1985 after the city's Development Mitigation Task Force released a study on the effects of the boom in commercial development in the early 1980s.

The boom brought construction valued at nearly $250 million but little in the way of jobs for residents, Cole said.

By the mid-1980s, 50,000 commuters were coming into the city each day, but residents held only a small fraction of the new jobs. Of all the jobs in the city, only one-third were held by residents, city statistics show.

The state Employment Development Department estimates that 3,300 residents were unemployed in September out of a total city work force of 67,500--an unemployment rate of 4.8%. The county unemployment rate was 6%.

But the department cautioned that there are pockets of high unemployment in Pasadena that are not reflected in the overall figures.

Lenard Black, the city's affirmative action administrator, said city estimates on unemployment for blacks and Latinos in parts of northwest Pasadena run as high as 18%. The unemployment rate for minorities between ages 16 and 22 jumps to 45%.

"Pasadena is very much a city of two communities--the haves and have-nots," he said.

Responding to the task force report in 1986, Cole wrote: "In a time when federal support for job training is eroding, Pasadena continues to face high rates of unemployment and underemployment, particularly among its minority citizens.

"No strategy for northwest Pasadena can be successful without providing linkages between development in the prosperous downtown and the needs of residents for jobs north of the freeway."

2 Ordinances Proposed

Cole and Thompson-Glickman proposed two ordinances in September, 1986, in an effort to change the situation.

One would have required developers of projects larger than 125,000 square feet to pay 15 cents a square foot to pay for part of a city employment program. The funds would have been used for job training and placement.

The other ordinance would have required developers of projects of the same size to pay a deposit of 35 cents per square foot, ensuring that businesses owned by minorities and women would be employed in building projects. The deposit would be forfeited if the city determined that a developer did not make a "good-faith effort" to comply.

The total fees could have amounted to $65,000 for a 125,000-square-foot project.

The chamber immediately assailed the proposals.

"If you put more taxes on developers, they'll just go to Glendale," said Joel Sheldon, then president of the chamber.

Pressure From Chamber

The pressure from the chamber was enough to kill both ordinances, and Cole and Thompson-Glickman proposed the JOBS program instead.

The program would have coordinated activities of existing job programs, such as the Pasadena Community Skills Center, sought jobs for people who did not qualify for federal low-income job programs, secured local hiring agreements with developers and negotiated commitments from developers to use businesses owned by minorities and women.

In reality, JOBS became what Cole called a "three-cornered stalemate" with the chamber, the board and the city staff each failing to move it forward.

"It just died," Thompson-Glickman said.

The JOBS program faltered early when Cole and Thompson-Glickman failed to name anyone to the five-member monitoring committee.

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