Aldermen, talk to us about local construction contracts

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By James Hammonds

In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass mentions a small town where African Americans had a problem with a person who was spying for the white residents in the community. Every plan they developed to improve themselves was thwarted because the spy would divulge their secret. Black residents eventually identified, tarred, feathered and ran the spy out of town.

In the old days African Americans took seriously the need for cooperation in the struggle for political and social advancement. The term "Uncle Tom" was applied to persons who were not about the business of uplifting the race. Once so designated, the person might be ostracized and held up to social ridicule and worse.

Today we live in a society where traitors seem to be in control. They are rewarded for their misdeeds by both blacks and whites?"oftentimes elevated to top positions in government and the business community. Because of their high positions, references to them as "Uncle Toms" are no longer politically correct. And I suppose it also is not appropriate to tar and feather them.

However, it is all right to verbally beat up on such individuals as Clarence Thomas, since they belong to the Republican Party. That's because Republicans are now considered the arch-enemy of many African-American leaders. But an attack on persons of color who are Democrats, or favored by the power elite in Chicago, is considered a no-no ... even if they are traitors.

That is why you will not hear any criticism of the "black" contractors in this city who support Democratic candidates and sell out the African-American community by acting as pass-through companies on City of Chicago contracts. These businesses identify themselves as the affirmative action component of the project, get paid, suck up all of the affirmative action requirements and end up with white companies doing all of the work.

This phenomenon prevents "real" black-owned construction companies from developing into major construction firms. Black elected officials know this, but they allow these pass-through companies to continue. In some instances the alderman will promote a company so that it can obtain a contract. Then the head of the business either makes a political contribution or gives a job to a good friend of the alderman.

Other aldermen indirectly support this activity by not demanding their right to review all construction contracts for actual African-American participation and requiring the head of the procurement department to report on a regular basis and holding this person to a high level of scrutiny.

Recently the head of procurement, Eric Griggs, a black man, left his position under a cloud of scandal in the department. Under his watch, fraudulent minority companies perpetrated all sorts of shameful activity. After it was announced that he was leaving the position, many of his supporters on the City Council indicated that it was unfair since he had only been in the position for a year.

The truth is that Griggs joined the department in 2002 and, once assuming the director's position in 2004, should have made certain the interest of the black community was being protected. Mr. Griggs like many other blacks who assume high positions in this city, fail to understand they have a responsibility to do right by the African-American community.

In light of this recent scandal and the failure of the City of Chicago to divulge the affirmative action results for the Central Bridge project and the new 15th District police station, shouldn't aldermen Carothers (29th Ward) and Mitts (37th Ward) be required by the Austin community to hold public hearings? The hearings would investigate and determine if the contractors on these two projects acted in accordance with the law?

 

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