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Testimony on I1, I2 regarding environmental justice, fair housing and equal employment opportunity

From: domainremoved <John>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2016 17:19:39 -0700

Testimony, Menlo Park City Council, Regarding Agenda Item I1 and I2

John William Templeton, Curator, California African-American Freedom Trail

Last Sunday, two milestones went little noted—the unveiling of a statue honoring the father of California’s Fair Housing Act, W. Byron Rumford, and the recognition of the worst disaster of World War II, the Port Chicago Massacre. Both events are part of my book, Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vol. 3, 1950-2000.

This summer, we have mapped 6,000 sites of interest for the California African-American Freedom Trail. Belle Haven is one of those places because of the middle class community in Ravenswood and because of the extraordinary impact of Roy L. Clay Sr. He opened his business, Rod-L Electronics and has continued to be a global leader since 1977.

Back in 2000, I came to Belle Haven with a proclamation from Gov. Gray Davis acknowledging Clay’s selection as a Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame member.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to discuss with him the proposal for the expansion of the Facebook campus and he shared the reservations which you should take very seriously.

Both the hundreds in Port Chicago and Assemblyman Rumford gave their lives in the pursuit of fair employment and housing.. However, the land use practices of the Peninsula cities have reversed much of the progress of the past 50 years.

Although you only have jurisdiction in your city, your decisions affect many throughout the region. Since the 2000 Census, the African-American population of Menlo Park has declined by a third.

Discriminatory hiring practices by companies such as Facebook are at the root of that decline. Fewer than 300 African-Americans in Menlo Park have managerial and professional jobs, according to the American Community Survey in 2014.

However, those of us in San Francisco face similar displacement, as the African-American population has declined from 60,000 in 2000 to 45,000 in 2014. San Francisco Uniifed School District has seen its enrollment of black students drop from 10,000 to 4,400 from 2005 to 2015.

As editor of the San Jose Business Journal beginning in 1987, I can categorically reject the excuse of Facebook that it can not find qualified African-Americans. I made that point in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1998 and to the House Judiciary Committee in 2003. Since 1998, I have done an annual report Silicon Ceiling: Equal Opportunity and High Technology and hosted the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday since 1999.

Your counterparts in Palo Alto City Hall hosted the exhibition Soul of Technology honoring Roy Clay, the late Dr. Frank Greene, Ron Jones and Gerry Lawson among other African-American technical pioneers in 2009. Although Facebook was then just across the street, they did not participate.

To grow in a non-inclusive way since then is an act of defiance of best practices in workplace standards, which grew out of the 1934 general strike which led to the National Labor Relations Act and A. Philip Randolph’s speech integrating the labor movement.

When your city government allows a company which has less than one percent African-American employment to expand, it sends out demographic shock waves across the region. It also shuts out other businesses from exercising their First Amendment rights, a point made by the National Newspaper Publishers Association last week in opposing plans by Facebook to arbitrarily change its algorithms.

The recent Mercury News article suggested that one third of those workers will live in San Francisco, adding to skyrocketing rents which are the highest in the country. Now, 25,000 African-Americans with graduate degrees live in the Bay Area, although only 2,000 African-American work in technology companies.

In our most recent Silicon Ceiling 15, we noted that only 20 percent of technology employers even listed themselves as equal opportunity employers, a shocking trend which is facilitated by local land use policy.

As a result, non-diverse workforces replicate stereotypes and bias through their mathematical formulas, leading to consumer racial profiling (CRP) in a variety of instances. If you’re African-American, you see how Facebook’s employees feel about you through the types of advertisements and posts which get directed to you and it can be quite disgusting at times.

By hosting a company of global reach, you have the responsibility to take the interests of that larger community into account. Before taking further action, I recommend that the environmental justice analysis be performed of the impact of Menlo Park businesses, traffic and employment patterns on racial inequality in the region. You should throw boulders into the unknown and plead ignorance.

People 75 miles away should not face abrupt disruptions because of actions taken without their knowledge. It is equally unfortunate that those who have sacrificed for this country as veterans are being displaced by such policies. When Roy Clay started Rod-L, he made a point of hiring local workers and training them irrespective of their educational backgrounds so that progress would be equally shared. Let’s not bury that legacy.

Received on Mon Jul 18 2016 - 17:26:25 PDT

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