Monday, March 27, 2006

Authoritah pt. 2

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Read this one yesterday:

For years Raymond Williams took any job he could get, even working under the table without benefits, while trying to support a wife and five daughters. With limited experience and a criminal record, it wasn't easy.

Then he met Charles Powell, director of diversity affairs at the Urban Redevelopment Authority, who arranged a job for him demolishing public housing near Mr. Williams' subsidized apartment in East Liberty. After that six-month gig, Mr. Powell connected him with a contractor excavating another nearby site.

Last week, he was working chilly 10-hour days driving compactors across a barren site where he hopes to buy a home one day and calling it "a blessing and a learning experience."

On one hand, Mr. Williams, 44, is an answer to a decades-old question: How can people who live in the city's redeveloping neighborhoods get a piece of the construction action? On the other, he and Mr. Powell are flash points in a worsening dispute between unions and the URA over whether the agency should influence job-site hiring, especially when doing so strains labor agreements.

Mr. Powell said the URA is trying to create "a successful program where community people will set the direction for their lives" by getting construction work in their neighborhoods.
Another big public policy question, and one that is particularly vexing is a blue collar city like Pittsburgh: how should labor be divided up amongst publicly funded projects.

The URA is, in fact, up against a wall on this one, needing to fullfill the requirements of Section 3 of the federal Housing and Urban Development Act, while at the same time promoting the interests of the Unions, while at the same time keeping costs down to a reasonable level.

But then again there's an equity issue at stake here as well, as it relates to job creation. It surely seems unethical to redevelop an entire area using entirely outside labor... but it also seems unethical to give people work once, and never again.

Well, public policy dilemma #2 for the O'Connor administration and it's Urban Redevelopment Authoritah.

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