At its annual retreat on March 24, the Greensboro City Council praised and criticized the summer jobs program for youth that Police Chief Brian James created last year.
Last year, James, in an effort to get kids off the streets for the summer, started a youth employment program. James said the goal of the program was to provide 500 kids with summer jobs, and in its first year, where, as James put it, “we were flying by the hair,” 525 young people in Greensboro got summer jobs.
While all city council members initially praised the program, several council members found fault with the children who were employed. Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said she went to one of the job fairs and there were kids from Summerfield participating. Hightower never explained how she knew the children were from Summerfield.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Justin Outling suggested that the city itself provide more summer jobs for the program because private employers could hire whoever they want, “but when it does provide jobs, there can certainly be geographic limitations on that.”
Outling also said, “I want to highlight Councilwoman Hightower’s point about who gets these jobs from an equity perspective, and we talk a lot about equity, diversity and inclusion. I think that’s very important to keep in mind because while it’s great for all kids to have internships, some kids are well-positioned to have internships without having a city-coordinated program.”
Councilwoman Goldie Wells said: “What he is concerned about is someone who doesn’t need this help to get a job, but I think the bottom line that the boss had on his heart when he started the program is the assurance that the right people will get in the program.”
Outling then said, “It’s not about kids in this community getting internships, quite frankly, kids in a lot of the neighborhoods I represent don’t have a problem getting internships.”
Outling said it was important to consider the geography of where the children in the show lived.
James said that when he held 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 the city was going to provide assistance for the program and thought providing transportation was an avenue the city could certainly consider, but added, “I don’t want anyone to hijack this idea because it really is driven by the Police Department.”
James said 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, rental of job fair facilities and incidentals.
Councilwoman Tammi Thurm said the City Council should provide that $50,000 so it doesn’t come from the police budget.