CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Alderwoman Arenda Troutman (20th Ward) and Alderwoman Shirley Coleman (16th Ward) used a parliamentary procedure known as “defer and publish” to hold up over $10 million in construction funding for the Kennedy King Community College, which serves Chicago’s Southside.
“November 19 was a good day to die for my people,” Alderwoman Troutman told The Final Call. “The word had come down through the grapevine that Walsh Construction would become the prime contractor for phase one of this $190 million project that sits in the community of Englewood over the past 40 years, one of the most devastated communities in America,” she continued.
Meetings had been held for three years with other politicians and representatives of the mayor, however, a commitment to hire Black contractors never emerged.
“We took a stand and we got concessions, so that people in our community may go to work. Unemployment in Englewood may be approximately around 70 percent,” she explained.
Census data from the year 2000 count says that the total population in Englewood is 40,222;–98.2 percent are Black. The data also said that 93 percent of Englewood’s population was low-income, with a 27.88 percent highschool dropout rate.
“Alderwoman Troutman and I grew up in Englewood,” Alderwoman Coleman confided, “so, we know what is going on there.”
“In this era, when Black companies are being passed over for contracts, we must continue to take a stand–this is about the future of our community,” she added.
Observers say that another alarming statistic concerning Englewood was reported in 1997, that 91 percent of Chicago’s births to unmarried mothers occurred in the neighborhood.
“We said enough is enough. The devastation of our community must stop,” Alderwoman Coleman said. “We have shown that it won’t be business as usual.” She also said that the next phase of the Kennedy King project is valued at $72 million.
Eddie Reed, director of the community-based construction activist group Chicago Black United Community, told The Final Call that what Alderwomen Troutman and Coleman did on November 19 in the City Council “was a step in the right direction.” He believes they took a “paramount” strategic position that cut off the flow of money and forced the “powers that be” to re-structure their position.
The Chicago Defender reported that “Black-owned companies” such as Dynamic Wrecking and Excavation would do 53 percent of the excavation work; Speedy Redi-Mix would pour the concrete; W.D. Trucking is involved, as well as the International Detective Agency, who won a security contract.
However, according to Mr. Reed, the landscape has been changed with the December 28 ruling by a federal judge finding Chicago’s minority “set-aside program” for construction contracts was illegal. “The city of Chicago runs a fraudulent affirmative action program. They use various minority indicators to show that the right thing is being done, when the truth is that nothing has changed,” he stressed.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the city of Chicago said that “it awarded 41 percent ($619 million) of contracts to minorities and women-owned companies.”
According to the newspaper, Judge James B. Moran, in a 31-page decision, said the city needs to target firms that really need help. The judge cited that minority-owned companies with assets totaling $27 million were eligible for set-aside consideration. He recommended that the annual revenue maximum for a minority-owned business to qualify for the program should be lowered. Judge Moran gave the city six months to “reconfigure” the program.
Mr. Reed said the court case was filed by members of the Building Association of Chicago, who feel “left out” and represents an internal fight between White contractors.
He suggested that the court ruling could force a legislative initiative that will change the practice of how Black contractors are awarded work. “We need an independent body to monitor these job sites and hopefully the court will handle this issue,” Mr. Reed added.
Alderwoman Troutman said she was not surprised by Judge Moran’s decision. “Court ruling or not, what all parties concerned must understand is that there is no way that they (can) build in our community without our involvement,” she concluded.