Austin legislators, show us the money ... and the jobs

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James Hammonds

Governor Rod Blagojevich, in his recent State of the State Address, proposed the passage of a jobs bill. His anticipated legislation would create over 230,000 jobs in construction and manufacturing, with 85,000 in mass transit, 7,000 through school construction and more than 140,000 from road building. The governor is predicting the jobs will pay from $40,000 to $120,000 per year.

This sounds great and the question that naturally comes to my mind is why aren't the legislators in Austin promoting the idea? What, in fact, are these men and women doing to ensure that the unemployed in Austin will have an opportunity to train and participate in these new jobs? The March primary election affords Austin residents a great opportunity to demand from State Rep. Calvin Giles, for instance, and his colleagues some accountability on job creation and business development for Austin.

After all, Cong. Danny Davis, State Rep. Collins and the others until this point have simply refused to speak out on the question of economic parity for the African-American community that is Austin. They have been content with young black males being the basis for expansion of the prison system in Illinois. These individuals have remained silent, while the Chicago area is experiencing a construction boom and African Americans are forced to sell drugs on street corners.

According to City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Dr. Wayne Watson, who was quoted in the Jan. 23 edition of the Chicago Defender, there is going to be $25 billion over the next 10 years in construction in the Chicago area. He was further quoted as saying if we do not get this door opened on a permanent basis now, then the billions of dollars that will be spent over the next 10 years will not go to select communities in Chicago, but will go out of Chicago and out of the state of Illinois.

Dr. Watson made his remarks in response to comments made by African-American contractors and workers who were angry about not getting their fair share of the $220 million being spent on building the new Kennedy King College. This group of unemployed construction workers shouted down Montel Gayles, executive director of the Chicago Building Commission. The protest was so great that Gayles had to be escorted by police from the meeting.

Austin residents have an opportunity to dissent another way. They can go to the polls in March and vote for candidates who believe in bringing jobs, business and money to the Austin community. Austin needs a new federal and state facility to go along with the Wal-Mart and Menard's coming to the community.

The business strips need a shot in the arm with a return of our tax dollars in the form of business loans and grants. Austin's young people could use new, innovative strategies to become better trained for the job market.

Isn't it time to tell Austin's elected officials that we are sick of stories about Arkansas, and the handshake and smile will not cut it anymore? Austin wants you to show the community the money?"money for jobs, training and business development.

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