Friday, May 4, 2012

Minority Set Asides Delay Nine Figure Chicago METRA Project

Objections to low levels of minority participation by three African American Congressmen from Illinois have delayed the award, and the completion, of construction of a $141 million railroad bridge in the Englewood neighborhood designed to relieve freight and commuter rail conflicts and delays. Representatives Bobby Rush, Danny Davis, and Jesse Jackson Jr. succeeded in delaying the award of the contract from the May 11 METRA board meeting until at least June 15. The delay in awarding the contract could set back completion from June 2014 until the fall of that year.

Despite two years and $300,000.00 of community outreach by METRA in Englewood, the apparent low bidder on the Rail bridge project, dubbed the “Englewood Flyover,” pledged less than 1% of the subcontract work to an African American firm, and less than 3% to DBE businesses.  The letter from the three Congressmen to the METRA board decries the lack of black business participation in this major public construction project in a high crime black neighborhood: “It is unacceptable that a public procurement process wherein millions of taxpayer dollars are expended could have at its very core the systemic disenfranchisement of a community of people,” the letter scolds.

Maybe the three Congressmen ought to walk over to Chicago’s federal courthouse and examine the charging papers in recent federal indictments for minority set aside fraud in the city, and look into the possibility that past “successful” public contracts touting subcontracting levels of 10% MBE and 5% WBE participation were based on seriously dishonest calculations of those numbers.

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