It’s not only Austin residents who are upset about the lack of construction jobs being made available to the community, says activists in Austin.

“People are very upset and are demanding answers and asking those of us who are in positions of leadership to advocate for them on these construction sites,” said Virgil Crawford of the Westside Health Authority.

Surrounding communities of Lawndale, Garfield Park, Maywood and Humboldt Park are also getting involved, he says.

“Why are skilled and qualified workers from communities such as ours being locked out of job opportunities; especially on sites that are funded by federal stimulus dollars,” Crawford asked. “We’re asking our elected representatives for an emergency meeting to come and explain how we get people jobs on these projects.”

“It’s not just about the 27th, 37th or 28th wards-it is about what are we doing to put people to work,” adds Rev. Michael Stinson of General Assembly Church. “People have been knocking down our doors. There is an epidemic in the streets that has lead to the rise of violence in communities. Families are stretched out; they don’t have money, houses foreclosed on, and families are splitting up. If we don’t get these elected officials, alderman and legislators to sign-off on a plan of inclusion we are going to be behind even further.”

After closing down a construction site last Thursday, on Chicago Avenue and Cicero, Crawford said West Side Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) agreed to meet with his group. Crawford adds that since this effort began members of the community are contacting him daily. They’re also trying to meet and get answers from other elected officials. Stinson, however, insists that this effort isn’t just the politicians’ responsibility.

“I don’t want to dump all of the responsibility on our elected officials; they have a large duty here and we respect that,” he said. “I call on every citizen who has skills and is qualified, [and] who wants to work. If there is ever a time to get involved now is the time. Now is the time to join in this united front made up of regular citizens that are demanding we have our fair portion of federal dollars that are coming into our community.”

Crawford adds: “We have got to take a look and, if necessary, demand that an investigation be done regarding the hiring practices that are taking place in our community. There are people who are sitting around the table where the decisions are being made about how these dollars are going to be spent.”

-Delores McCain