OAKLAND — Almost $630,000 million in federal stimulus money has been directed into the East Bay in the last year, funding public service efforts Rep. Barbara Lee highlighted in a bus tour Monday morning.
Museum digitizing, community college job training, HIV/AIDS therapy and youth homelessness outreach were among the services Lee, D-Oakland, highlighted on the news tour, which stopped in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Castro Valley.
"One year ago, we passed in Washington, D.C., the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," Lee said. "This was a hard fight. I wanted it to be more: I said we needed to spend a trillion dollars, but it ended up being about $787 billion."
The funding is locally focused on job creation and retention, and on services needed by those who are unemployed, Lee said.
"The Oakland Museum of California owns 2 million objects, but can only present a small percentage of those in its displays," museum director Lori Fogarty said. "We're using some of the stimulus money to digitize art, artifacts, natural science specimens, documents from California's founding, Native American artifacts. It will all end up on our Web site where California's fourth-graders, who study California history, can access and learn from the cultural DNA of their state. At the same time, we're creating jobs for photographers and educators, among others."
Outgoing Peralta Community College District Chancellor Elihu Harris said the school has cut 600 classes this semester alone due to budget cuts, eliminating training options for those who will need help to be employable in a shifting economy.
Kabir Hypolite, director of the Alameda County Office of AIDS, said that funding for HIV education has been eliminated entirely and stimulus funds will be critical in reaching those who suffer from or are at risk for the virus, which struck Oakland with such severity that officials declared a state of emergency more than a decade ago.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums praised the stimulus effort, and called for upcoming federal infrastructure funding to broaden the definition of "infrastructure."
"Public works departments across the country don't just deal with roads and bridges," Dellums said. "We should let public works use infrastructure money to work on the sewer systems, water systems, seismic retrofitting. As we've seen in New Orleans and most recently in Haiti, when catastrophe strikes and those systems aren't in good shape it compounds the danger and disaster. Oakland itself sits atop several earthquake faults.
"You would see great support for this, because every mayor in America knows what's under the streets," he added. "If you could see what's under the streets here it would scare you."
Lee said the funding should be covered by the upcoming federal transportation bill and ideas along the lines of Dellums' suggestion are "on the table" in negotiations.
To get appropriations funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Lee suggested public service groups and agencies fill out an online request at www.lee.house.gov. The federal government has published information on the stimulus funding at www.recovery.gov.