At its annual retreat on March 24, the Greensboro City Council praised and criticized the summer youth jobs program that Police Chief Brian James created last year.
Last year, James, in an effort to get kids off the streets in the summer, started a youth employment program. James said the goal of the program was to provide summer jobs for 500 kids, and in its first year, where, as James said, “we were pretty much flying by the seat of our pants,” 525 youths in Greensboro got summer jobs.
While the city councilmembers all initially praised the program, several councilmembers found fault with the kids that were employed. Councilmember Sharon Hightower said she went to one of the job fairs and there were kids from Summerfield participating. Hightower never explained how she could tell that the kids were from Summerfield.
Councilmember and mayoral candidate Justin Outling suggested that the city itself provide more summer jobs for the program because private employers could hire anyone they wanted, “but when the provides jobs you can certainly have geographic limitations around that.”
Outling also said, “I do want to highlight Councilwoman’s Hightower’s point about who’s getting these jobs from an equity perspective, and we talk about equity diversity and inclusion a lot. I think it is really important to be mindful of that because while it’s great for every child to have internships, some children are well positioned for having internships without having a city coordinated program.”
Coundilmember Goldie Wells said, “What your concerned about is someone who doesn’t need this help getting a job, but I think with the bottom line that the chief had in his heart when he started the program is assurance that the right folks will get in the program.”
Outling then said, “It’s not about kids across this community getting internships, quite candidly kids in many of the neighborhoods I represent don’t have problems getting interships.”
Outling said that considering the geography of where the kids in the program lived was important.
James said that when holding a job fair, “If you want us to say, you can come if you live in this area and if you don’t you can’t come here, we just can’t do that.”
City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba said that the city was going to provide assistance for the program and he thought that providing transportation was an avenue the city could certainly consider, but he added, “I do not want anyone to hijack this idea because it is really driven from the Police Department.”
James said that the total cost of the program this year would be about $50,000 including hiring a coordinator, which they didn’t have last year, advertising, renting facilities for job fairs and incidentals.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said that the City Council should provide that $50,000 so that it didn’t come from the police budget.