Jobs report ‘old news’ for council
The City Council is letting the head of the City of Newburgh’s Workforce Development Initiatives know in no uncertain terms that they aren’t happy with city progress in creating local jobs.
“This isn’t what I expected,” Councilwoman Gay Lee said Thursday night as LaToya Johnson gave a workforce development progress report at the Sept. 20 work session.
Johnson had just presented a progress report to the council in which she said “13 jobs” were created. The progress report included support of a Community Voices Heard job fair that Johnson said, “that could have had a better turnout.”
Included in the report were possible job sources that council members felt held little potential for creating work in Newburgh.
Johnson said that Workforce Development was currently trying to determine where jobs are to be created and what job skills they are looking for.
“So, the jobs that have been created up to now,” Mayor Judy Kennedy said, “are they temporary jobs?
“Eleven youth jobs?” the mayor asked. She was told those were Youth Employment jobs through Newburgh Free Academy.
“They were independent from the YAP funding,” she was told.
“The last year, they were unable to find any jobs that were within the City of Newburgh.”
Johnson said she made a connection with Deirdre Glenn at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center “to provide the youth with an opportunity to actually work within the Armory Center for a couple of weeks during the summer …”
She said they did some painting and did a variety of carpenter work.
Councilman Curlie Dillard pointed out that lack of transportation is a major problem for local workers.
Johnson said that she has been invited to sit with a group called OCEAN in Sullivan County that deals with the transportation sector. She suggested that would help deal with increasing mobility of Orange and Sullivan county workers.
Johnson was asked by Kennedy to explain how she incorporated information gleaned from their questionnaire.
“The thing about the information is that it wasn’t brand new information,” Johnson admitted. “It was a lot of the same issues as before.”
“I think that was a good thing,” she said, “it wasn’t a whole lot of new issues.”
The council was less than impressed.
“I think this is what I expected,” Councilwoman Lee said. “It’s a little on the weak side … the groups that you have [listed here on Page 2] I have some questions about whether or not they’ll be able to provide employment or training.
“I had the expectation that you’d be producing jobs by now,” Lee said. “But I really expected a little bit more …
Lee was critical of the number of jobs that some of the organizations listed could provide.
“Without being offensive, this looks like something that was thrown together,” she said. “I would like to see more.”
Johnson assured Lee that her plan is well thought out. She responded to a suggestion from Councilwoman Lee that she wanted to hear more from the Community Development Block Grant people by saying that CDBG Director Courtney Kain has been invited to join her group.
Johnson also said she’s reaching out to Lee and Mayor Judy Kennedy to help her advance the program.
“We’re working under a quarterly system,” Johnson said, adding that her report to the council is for the first quarter.
“The first quarter was about building partnerships,” Kain said.
It wasn’t Johnson’s first clash with the council. In April, the City Council refused to finance Phase II of the initiatives, saying that Phase I wasn’t finished. The council later approved Phase II financing but not before letting Johnson know they expected more in the way of job creation.
In April, Johnson asked for and received a three-month extension of time to complete her Phase I and was provided another $14,350 in funding.
Kennedy said Thursday that she was concerned “that we have a lot of training going on. What I don’t want to see is WDI offering more training,” Kennedy said.
“I want to see jobs created.”
“How is WDI going to do that?” she asked.
Councilman Cedric Brown, who was highly critical of the lack of progress in April, said, “what this tells me, is that you’re still working on Phase I.”
Johnson disputed that, saying that she was trying to identify where the jobs are.
“You’re doing what Best Resources did,” Brown said.
“Without creating new jobs, you’re doing a poor job. What updates do you have from Quarter 1?” he asked.
Mayor Kennedy said that suggests that Workforce Development Initiatives should seek out employers and gather more information from them.
“Employers struggled to retain employees,” Kennedy said. “Talk to the employers. What are their issues?
“How can we make an agreement with the Newburgh Enlarged School District?”
Kennedy had previously mentioned a potential for jobs at businesses at a remote site in the city. She asked Johnson to return with an answer to some of the transportation issues.
“It’s unfair for you to come in to us with old information,” Councilman Brown said. “We want updated, new information,” he said.
“And I want it before the meeting,” Kennedy added, “not the night of the meeting.”
By ALLAN GAUL