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Congressman Rush, community get victory in Metra accord

Posted by Admin On July - 17 - 2012

Blacks to get up to $23 million for Englewood Flyover


By Chinta Strausberg


The Metra board’s approving of the $93 million contract needed to build a South Side railroad bridge paved the way for the president of IHC Construction Co. to sign an historic agreement Monday at the Kennedy King College that will allocate up to $23 million for the Englewood Flyover project and open doors to hiring blacks—an act Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-1st) said will stem the violence.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding was the culmination of nearly two-months of protesting led by Rush who demanded equity in the letting of an $86 million Englewood Flyover contract where only one African American received a $112,000 security guard contract.

Rush, Reps. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-2nd), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Father Michael L. Pfleger, activist Eddie Read and hundreds of others marched on Metra’s headquarters demanding that the Engelwood Flyover contract be re-bid.

Monday, their protestations came to a victorious halt when IHC Construction President David Rock, who was the lowest bidder for the job, signed the Memorandum of Accord. Rock said, “Getting the contract awarded is a positive thing and it creates work for everybody.”

Earlier Monday, it was Metra Chairman, Larry Huggins, who confirmed that an agreement had been struck between the IHC Construction and the three congressmen. The accord, Rep. Rush said, “completely empowers and enables black contractors to be a part of the work performance here up to at least 21 percent of the total jobs.”

Referring to the Metra Board of Directors approving IHC Construction as the prime contractor for the job, Rush said the Metra Englewood Flyover project “is now on the right track. The voices of the people have finally been heard.”

Rush said Rock has agreed “to an historic level of African American Community Outreach, partnering and mentoring in order to identify subcontracting and job opportunities.”

According to Rush, local qualified African American construction companies will received the support they need to bid on up to 21 percent of the total construction cost. “That’s more than $19 million worth of work and that’s just to start,” he said. Rush said the contract is up to $23 million.

“We expect to see companies from this community building bridge drainage systems, doing site demolition, wall construction, landscaping, asphalt paving, excavation, pavement marking and more,” Rush said during the public forum.

He said a community liaison would be appointed to work with all the parties “to insure that the opportunities for jobs and contracts are real.” Rush said a contractor summit would be held in mid August where technical questions will be addressed.

Rush said that would eliminate any misunderstanding about contracting requirements and the qualifications. “For this to work, commitments made on both sides by all parties must be kept,” said Rush who explained this process began in his D.C. office in October of 2009 when he met with Metra officials and let them know that black contractors “could not be looked over” in building the Englewood Flyover.

“We know that the best stop the violence initiative is a get a job initiative,” stated Rush. “Our young people are smart and talented and hard working but they need a chance. They need a shot at not getting shot.”

The process used to hammer out an accord for the Englewood Flyover project is aimed at building capacity among African American contractors. Rush said the resulting Memorandum of Agreement “is a protocol…a framework for community inclusion that can be used in the future by contractors not only in Chicago but throughout this state and nation.”

Rush thanked Judge Michael Stuttley, Hal Baskin, and Henry English “for their expertise and dedication.” He also thanked Aldermen Sawyer (6th), Howard Brookins (21st), Willie Cochran (20th), Father Michael L. Pfleger, the staff of Senators Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) and Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) for their “street heat” in protesting for fairness. Rush also thanked Rock for working with the community. “He chose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Rep. Davis said his participation entailed marching and demonstrating. “It was a comprehensive approach and all of the things came together to produce the Memorandum of Understanding. What ever anybody did, if they marched one block, they were a part of making it happen. If they called up one person to get them to come to a meeting, they were a part of making it happen.

“Individuals don’t make public decisions,” said Davis. “It takes groups of working together cooperatively and anytime you get enough of them, something’s gotta give.”

Henry English, president of the Black United Fund of Illinois who was on the panel, said, “Since I was part of the participation, I feel good about it. I think this is how we have to protect construction projects into the future to make sure that the African American community is involved in it and that they benefit from some of the tax dollars that are spent for all of these projects that will come down the line.”

English said the final agreement “is not perfect, but it’s a giant step” and said “it will take us across this country.”

Senator Collins said, “I commend Congressman Rush for his leadership, in conjunction with Congressmen Davis and Jackson, in challenging the lack of African American participation in the Englewood Flyover Project.

“The memorandum of agreement signed today ensures that the citizens of Englewood will have access to jobs and economic opportunity,” she stated.

Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger, was not present at the forum but thanked publicly by Rush, said, “I thank Congressman Rush for taking the initiative on this and for demanding fairness and equity.

“Unfortunately, that is what has to happen if we are going to change what business has done. I thank him for picking up the banner and working for this,” said Pfleger. “I support this. I believe this now has to be the precedent on every project and not just on the South Side.

“This was a no-brainer in the middle of the community,” Pfleger said referring to the building of the Englewood Flyover in the heart of the black community. “It should be on every project,” Pfleger stated.

Saying he’s been in this community for 52-years, Hal Baskin, executive director of the People Educated Against Crime in Englewood, said, “This Memorandum of Understanding is just a first step. It ain’t all what we wanted to get in it, but you have to make some compromises but coming out from less than 1/10th of 1 percent up to 21 percent is a good thing. “

“If you give individuals an opportunity, they can change this concept and this concept will be a paradigm throughout this country if not the world,” said Baskin who along with Judge Stuttley and English helped to hammer out the accord.

Referring to the contract meetings, Baskin said, “It was like pulling teeth. This negotiation wasn’t easy,” he said saying it took nearly two-months to reach an agreement. “But, there has been some pull and take on both sides….”

He’s also glad that there will be some transparency in the contract letting and believes this agreement “will be a roadmap” for future projects no matter what agency is letting contracts. Baskin said, “We’re going to hold their feet to fire” and make sure they hire blacks from the community. “Our mission was accomplished…. The whole country was looking at this piece….”

Rush said, “We are going to build a bridge that is not just a gigantic block of cement. We are building a bridge to the equal opportunity that this nation promises. We are building a bridge to African American inclusion in future construction work and professional services across this city and nation. We are building relationships that we believe will go beyond Englewood…beyond this one project. I believe this Flyover can help our people to cross over the barricades that have blocked progress in the building trades for decades. I believe the Englewood Flyover will truly be a bridge to the future,” said Rush.

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.

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