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Council committee move would require more local workers on city jobs

A City Council committee moved on Wednesday toward the establishment a policy that would require contractors doing business with San Diego to hire a mostly local workforce in an effort to combat high unemployment.

The so-called local jobs policy, proposed by City Council President Ben Hueso, would mandate that 70 percent of the work hours on publicly funded projects in San Diego be done by local residents or veterans.

It would also require that 10 percent of the work on municipal projects be done by “disadvantaged workers,” defined as residents who have been unemployed for more than six months or who live in parts of the city with a lower than average median income.

The Rules, Open Government and Intergovernmental Relations Committee voted unanimously to direct the City Attorney’s Office to draft the policy and return within 60 days for consideration.

According to Hueso’s office, the city will spend more than $400 million on public works projects this year.

With more than 160,000 San Diego residents now out of work, Hueso wrote in a memo to the mayor and City Council that the city “needs to take leadership by ensuring that our investment in public works also creates local jobs.”

According to a report by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a local think tank, San Diego construction employment has shrunk by 31.5 percent since its peak in mid-2006.

Councilman Todd Gloria said creating jobs is the City Council’s “top priority.”

“We need San Diegans’ tax dollars to be given to San Diegans for work performed in the community so they can in turn spend it in some of the small businesses I represent,” he said at today’s meeting.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Angelika Villagrana testified that the organization supports the hiring of local workers, but suggested a policy might not be necessary.

“We have met with the construction industry and we understand that they are already committed, and have been for many years, to hire workers locally because, quite frankly, it is more cost-effective than bringing and housing workers here from other parts of the country,” she told the committee.