By JOTF on 5/9/2014
by Jason Perkins-Cohen
This blog post is part of a group blogging event hosted by Living Cities and Meeting of the Minds about how cities could better connect their residents to economic opportunity.

We all want our cities to be safe places to live and work, but plans to increase public safety in metropolitan areas are failing our citizens. In misguided attempts to grow urban areas and their respective tax bases, policy and business leaders are shutting out huge swaths of the labor market through employment standards that all but exclude workers with a criminal record.

Employers naturally want to develop businesses that are safe for workers and customers. They also want to make hiring decisions that protect their financial security and minimize liability and loss. While these ideals are worthwhile, in their attempts to guarantee safety, many employers are evaluating a potential employee based, not on their merits as a worker, but on assumptions of a person’s future behavior. When employers automatically say “no” to people with criminal convictions, even minor ones, they are excluding a number of potentially great employees without any regard to a person’s skill set, attempts to improve their behavior or record of community contribution.
By JOTF on 6/10/2013
by Jason Perkins-Cohen

Last week, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed Council President Young’s bill to promote local hiring. The measure, which the mayor declined to sign, will take effect in December. It creates a standard by which some contractors will be required to hire city residents. Specifically, developers of projects that receive city contracts valued at $300,000 or more, or subsidies of $5 million or above, must fill 51 percent of the jobs created by those ventures with Baltimore City residents.

 

The vote was the culmination of a long battle over the bill’s promise and potential weaknesses. It’s not perfect. The legislation will apply to relatively few projects and waivers are available that could further reduce its impact. Still, it is important step toward linking the goals behind large-scale publicly funded projects and the need to get our residents working. Right now, Baltimore has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state, with more than 26,000 residents unemployed, and of the city’s unemployment insurance claims, 9.1 percent of those people work in construction.

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