Fire the botched jobs program 

San Francisco Budget Analyst Harvey Rose has issued dozens of hard-hitting reports on city spending waste through the years. But the latest effort from his independent office is among the most mind-boggling. Only a few numbers are necessary to paint a disturbing portrait of unchecked municipal bureaucracy at its most ineffective:

During the 2006-07 fiscal year, San Francisco spent $29.1 million on employment development programs done by 11 city departments, plus 59 community nonprofits, that received $15.4 million of the pot. So how many job seekers actually obtained employment as a result of this substantial public expenditure? Only 4,300.

Job-placement ratios for the various city-funded programs range from approximately 4 percent to 21 percent. San Francisco taxpayers paid $6,767 for each job obtained, and there is no reliable overall evidence — especially from the nonprofits — on how many of those jobs were supposedly permanent and self-sustaining.

The embarrassingly low number of jobs produced by the millions being spent should be blamed on a duplicative, inefficient employment development system that is "fragmented, with inconsistent planning and coordination of resources and inadequate monitoring of programs," according to the budget analyst.

The City’s three one-stop job placement centers served 13,157 clients during the last fiscal year, but only 2,054 people, or 15.6 percent, actually found jobs. Even worse were results among the 3,412 clients under the age of 25; only 140 of the younger job-seekers, or 4.1 percent, got hired.

"It looks like there’s a lot of lip service being given, but no real product," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who requested the audit.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced legislation to centralize all employment development efforts under one administration, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he agrees generally with the Mirkarimi legislation, but prefers to implement the changes by executive order. The mayor acknowledged that the jobs program needs improvement and said he has directed city officials to prepare a better plan. Newsom claimed to have a draft of a "new approach" to be announced at some unspecified future time, which unfortunately makes us suspect that little planning has been accomplished.

Stopping the useless spending right now is politically unrealistic. So obviously the first step in cleaning up San Francisco’s employment development mess must be to combine all operations under one office, instead of continuing to allow uncoordinated little programs to proliferate throughout The City. But centralization without true accountability is pointless.

There must be a firm, rational deadline for proving municipal job placement help actually puts substantial numbers of applicants to work. If The City cannot deliver solid evidence of success by the end of one or two years, the jobs program should be fired and its millions should be transferred to something that genuinely accomplishes a public good.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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