Sharing the work

A City Hall presentation about the Black Child Legacy Campaign leads to broader conversations about tackling poverty by expanding opportunities

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the February 28, 2019, issue.

With millions about to be spent on public works projects in the city of Sacramento, local leaders don’t want the related opportunities to bypass neighborhoods already suffering from generations of disinvestment.

On February 12, the City Council approved a $100,000 contract with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, or SETA, to coordinate a new program that recruits skilled laborers from struggling neighborhoods to work on upcoming renovations of the Sacramento Convention Center, the Community Center Theater and the Memorial Auditorium.

While the contract was passed on the consent calendar, it was nevertheless brought up during a presentation on the Black Child Legacy Campaign’s progress in South Sacramento, North Sacramento and the Arden-Arcade neighborhood. The campaign is a broad coalition of volunteers, health care providers and faith organizations working to reduce the black infant mortality rate.

Sierra Health Foundation president Chet Hewitt told council members that, according to the county’s latest numbers, the campaign had already reached its goal of reducing black child deaths by 20 percent just three years into its mission. He said it’s doing that work through health outreach and intervention in seven neighborhoods that have long experienced endemic poverty.

Referencing the new contract with SETA, District 8 Councilman Larry Car said he wants to see opportunity spread in a way that addresses greater issues.

“I just want you to know you are not alone,” he told Hewitt, adding about the upcoming renovation projects, “We want to make sure we get people from these communities that are impoverished some of those good paying jobs.”

In laying out the details of the SETA contract, Assistant City Manager Fran Halbakken wrote that “the objective is to develop increased numbers of local skilled construction workers and provide employment opportunities for emancipated youth, women, former offenders, veterans, persons receiving public assistance, youth interns and residents of targeted zip code areas.”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg told Hewitt the city wants to build on the work the Black Child Legacy Campaign has done through inclusive economic development.

“So, $10 million and you were able to bend the curves,” the mayor noted, adding that the city could soon have as much as $50 million in new Measure U funds to spend toward similar goals. “It’s about having a broader plan to address poverty in a systemic way.”