According to the city's Public Building Commission records, a contract in the amount of $11,552,100 for the construction of the 15th District Police station was issued to U.B.M., Inc. on Dec. 12, 2002. Pursuant to this agreement, UBM was committed to utilizing 25.07 percent minorities on the contract. They were also to make certain that 50 percent of their journeymen, apprentices and laborers were minorities.
The Austin community needs to know if UBM met its stated goals and exactly how many African Americans worked on the project, either as contractors, journeymen, apprentices or laborers. This information should not be that difficult for 29th Ward Alderman Ike Carothers to obtain and report in the Austin Weekly News.
Also it is alleged that UBM has submitted change orders, resulting in cost overruns. Exactly how much is the police station over budget? Furthermore, rumor has it there are numerous defects in the building, thus causing a delay in opening the facility.
What is the truth, Alderman Carothers? Are the citizens of Chicago being taken for a ride on this project?
As you know, it is not unusual in Chicago for so called "connected" construction firms to underbid a project, get awarded the contract and then be allowed to file change orders that are excepted. Thus the ultimate price of the construction project is "kicked up" to a higher level, much like the bid presented by the initial high bidder. Generally such actions only occur when there is collusion between the contractors and the procurement department.
In light of all the questions regarding the 15th District project, it is time for Alderman Carothers to set the record straight by providing all of the facts related to this matter. So, Alderman Carothers, please hold a press conference or write a letter. In fact, it doesn't matter what medium you choose. Just tell the Austin community what is going on with their tax dollars and their new police station.
Contrary to the veil of secrecy that surrounds the 15th District police station project, Alderman Mitts of the 37th Ward and the people from Wal-Mart have been very public in their discussion of the new Wal-Mart project on North Avenue near Cicero.
At a recent groundbreaking ceremony, Alderman Mitts introduced Margaret Garner who is the president of Broadway Consolidated Companies, Inc. a female-owned black construction company. Ms. Gardner's company is the general contractor for the demolition portion of the Wal-Mart project. She appeared again at Alderman Mitts' monthly meeting where Ms. Gardner promised Austin residents that she would utilize blacks on the demolition portion of the project.
Gardner indicated to the group that she in fact had recently hired a 37th Ward resident to drive a truck. Obviously, this is just the beginning, and it will be necessary for the Austin community to keep an eye on Broadway Consolidated Companies and Wal-Mart to make certain they continue to utilize African Americans in the demolition as well as the construction phase of the project.
However, Ms. Gardner's efforts clearly point out Chicago's need to do better in making certain that construction firms comply with local affirmative action laws. The City's concerted effort to sidestep the law regarding affirmative action is reminiscent of Justice Taney's remark, "Blacks have no rights that white people have to respect."
The Central Avenue Bridge, the 15th District police station and the new Austin Library on Chicago Avenue should be investigated by aldermen Ed Smith (28th Ward), Mitts and Carothers to ascertain whether these projects actually complied with city affirmative action requirements.
If they failed to do so, then a fine should be levied against the general contractor and the funds obtained used to develop scholarships for young black men and women wishing to go into the trades.