For all its shiny gadgets and gleaming new luxury condo towers, San Francisco nevertheless houses a huge demographic that lives at or below poverty.
Officially, it affects about 12 percent of the city's population, according to the most recent US Census data. Experts from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality calculated an adjusted poverty figure to capture a more accurate portrait of economic disadvantage. According to that alternative yardstick, which factors in location-based costs such as the price of housing, a full 23.4 percent of San Franciscans live in poverty.
City agencies have documented ethnic identities, languages, neighborhoods of residence, and other data concerning poor people who seek assistance through city-administered services. But even though millions of dollars have flowed through city coffers to boost prospects for those who lack steady work, there's scant documentation showing what this has actually achieved.
Despite budgeted expenditures totaling nearly $70 million for workforce development in 2013-14, not a single San Francisco city official can say how many individuals managed to rise above poverty as a result.
FIVE YEARS, NO IMPROVEMENT
At the behest of Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, the city's Budget & Legislative Analyst recently analyzed the city's myriad workforce development programs. It found that there is no standard measure to track the results of the programs, which are administered across 14 city departments.
The analysts recommended convening a committee to get a handle on it, "so there would be somebody accountable for compiling that information," noted Severin Campbell, a principal at city budget analyst Harvey Rose Associates.
The analysis was a follow-up to a similar audit performed in 2007. The previous study concluded that the system to help struggling people obtain job skills and get hired "was fragmented, with inconsistent planning and coordination of resources and inadequate monitoring of programs to ensure that the programs' goals and outcomes were achieved."
Analysts who examined the workforce development system in 2007 discovered a lack of evidence that "individuals receiving services were eventually placed into jobs leading to economic self-sufficiency."
To cure this dysfunction, the Board of Supervisors formulated a plan. In November 2007, it created Administrative Code Section 30, a new policy centralizing oversight of all workforce development initiatives under the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, overseen by the Mayor's Office.
In 2007, OEWD's annual budget for its workforce division was $547,841. By 2012-13, that amount had swelled to $19.3 million. The federal government contributes a lot, but citywide, about 65 percent of workforce development spending comes from local funds.