A group of Milwaukee aldermen are proposing changes to the hiring expectations for developers who receive more than $1 million in financial assistance from the city.
The proposal, by the Workforce Organizational Reform Committee, will bolster the Residences Preference Program (RPP), and create a greater emphasis on hiring people living in the city’s poorest four zip codes; 53206, 53208, 53210 and 53233, according to the group.
“Today the work that has been done by this committee is an effort on a policy level to very deliberately use the work that is being done to make a connection to create opportunities for those that need it most,” said Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. “It is one thing to have skyscrapers and areas and all that other great stuff, but it is another to have it built by your neighbors.”
The proposed changes will have to make their way through various city committees next month and could be voted on by the full Common Council on June 14.
For projects getting subsidies from the city of Milwaukee, city officials have tried to ensure local residents and businesses are benefiting through its Residents Preference Program, Small Business Enterprise Program and Local Business Enterprise Program.
For example, at least 25 percent of construction spending and between 17 and 18 percent of professional service spending on the new Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee must be with a disadvantaged business enterprise, small business enterprise or small disadvantaged business. Forty percent of on-site arena construction hours must meet Milwaukee’s Residents Preference Program requirements.
Like the arena project, Northwestern Mutual has had to meet similar requirements for its headquarters project because both projects are being financed, in part, by tax incremental financing. Northwestern Mutual has hired about 355 people from Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods to help build the office tower.
The downtown streetcar project
and The Couture
development will also have to meet RPP requirements.
Other proposed changes to the existing ordinance include:
- Removing the amount of time a person needs to be unemployed to qualify for the RPP program from 30 days to 15.
- Elimination of the five-year qualification period for RPP workers.
- The creation of incentives to promote the use of workers from the Residents Preference Program, Small Business Enterprise Program and Local Business Enterprise Program.
- Allowing contractors who cannot meet the requirement to hire unemployed or underemployed residents to work on projects in surrounding counties – as long as they begin the work in Milwaukee.
- The creation of an RPP review commission.
The Common Council first passed the RPP ordinance in 1991 to increase the number of employment opportunities for unemployed or underemployed people living in portions of the city eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding.
In 2009, the council expanded the ordinance to include private development projects receiving at least $1 million in direct financial assistance from the city.
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Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton[/caption]
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton spoke passionately for more than 10 minutes Thursday morning about the proposed changes, encouraging a group of about 40 people at a press conference to ask the rest of the Common Council to pass the proposed changes to the ordinance.
“When this was introduced in 1991, I was a senior in high school – don’t say we are not patient,” Hamilton said. “Don’t say we haven’t talked about the issues, don’t say we haven’t talked about the problem, don’t say we don’t have qualified people out there, don’t say we need another study. We don’t have time to play.”
Alderman Russell Stamper talked about the violence in his community, including the shooting of 9-year-old Za'layia Jenkins, who died Monday.
“The number one anecdote I know to stop all this shooting is to provide people with jobs, that’s the only way I know,” Stamper said.
Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, which represents Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties, said the changes being proposed to the ordinance are a good step, but said expectations have to be controlled.
“Finding people who not only can provide the workforce, but can do it productively, efficiently and safely can take a long time to develop,” Bukiewicz said. “It has to work businesswise, also. Depending on the trade, to even feel comfortable on the job, it takes nine months to a year. This is nothing new, it has been going on since 1991, they are tweaking a process that works. Is there room for improvement, yes, and we recognize that.”