Says Congress willing to pull all of METRAâ€™s projects
(This article was updated April 30, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.)
Â By Chinta Strausberg
To some elected officials who do not know the civil rights history of Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-1st) and the ends he will go to on behalf of his constituents including his vow to stop METRA on its tracks if there isnâ€™t more African American participation, Saturday Rush simply said, â€œI am not playing.â€
Referring to this particular phase of the $133 million Englewood Flyover METRAâ€™s project and the current controversy over the $86 million construction bid, Rush said there is only one African American contractor who has received a $112,000 subcontract.
Â â€œThis project is funded mostly by federal dollars. I will work with members of Congress who are willing to pull all of METRAâ€™s projects out of the Transportation bill.â€ The dispute between Rush and METRA involves a second phase of the multi-tiered project, which totals $133 million. Rush is upset over the second phase involving a $86 million bid which includes the African American subcontractor’s $112,000 contract to handle security, which Rush says is totally unfair.
While the mayor believes Rush is simply raising the alarm over the paucity of black contractors on this project, Rush said, â€œ Iâ€™m not playing around.â€ â€œI am grateful for whatever support the mayor will giveâ€ to get fairness from METRA, â€œbut, weâ€™re not depending on the mayorâ€™s good graces or any other personâ€™s good graces in order to make this happen.
â€œThere is a resolve, a growing and very vocal resolve among people in the neighborhoods who are among the unemployed and are saying we are not going to tolerate these kinds of projects anymore in this city,â€ said Rush referring to citywide contracts that have either no or few African American workers and/or contractors.
â€œWe get all the dirt, the dust and the delay, then we want some of the dough, also. Cut us in or cut it out,â€ said Rush.
Referring to Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Senator Dick Durbinâ€™s promise to help resolve this dispute, Rush said, â€œWeâ€™re not going to turn down their support. We hope that it is sincere, and we hope they can do all that they can to help us to force METRA to rebid this contract.
â€œWe also know that this is not going to be done in the backroom because weâ€™re going to have community people in the boardroom,â€ said Rush who called for transparency in the bidding process. Rush said he is serious about getting a fair share of contracts for African Americans on these public works projects.
Back in 1987 when Rush was alderman of the 2ndÂ Ward, the CTA turned a deaf ear to his pleas not to tear down the 40 and Indiana El stop; so Rush hauled the agency into court. Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Oâ€™Brien ordered a halt to the demolition. With the court order in his hand, Rush and his supporters went down to that site and stopped the demolition. Today, the 40thÂ and Indiana site has been renovated and remains open.
While METRA spokesperson Michael Gillis told the Chicago Suntimes the bidding on this job has not been completed and that METRA did all they could to urge minority bidders to be a part of the project including holding five events in Englewood, Rush said, â€œMETRA completely reneged. They crossed us out. They walked away from the table. They are doing something that is totally unacceptable.
â€œI have been working with METRA for two-years to get them to commit to opening up the process to include minorities, and they have reneged on that. Â We have to now use another strategyâ€ said Rush.Â
â€œThey walked away from the table. â€œHow can anyone be satisfied with one African American contractor getting 0.12 percent out of a $86 million project. Thatâ€™s ridiculous. Thatâ€™s laughable and thatâ€™s totally unacceptable. We will change the mind of METRA,â€ vowed Rush.Â
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.