UPDATED 9/21/2011: The Metro Council office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action called officials, contractors and community leaders Thursday for a meeting in St. Paul that sought the inclusion of women and minority business participation on the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit project.
The unemployment rate for African-Americans in the Twin Cities is three times higher compared to those of whites. [See TCDP story here.] At a time when the U.S. economic recession has hit Minneapolis minorities the hardest, the state is constructing its second light-rail, creating 3,400 jobs.
But many people at the Thursday meeting expressed rage over C.S. McCrossan’s involvement with the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit construction project. C.S. McCrossan is the prime contractor on the Central Corridor light-rail.
The federal government requires at least 10 percent of the construction contract dollars to go to the disadvantaged business enterprises. However, McCrossan did not comply with the requirement when building the Hiawatha Line, which opened for service in 2004, according to a Star Tribune story.
“It’s not the first time McCrossan lied, they have been lying,” said Bill English, a co-chairman of the Coalition of Black Churches. “Our people go to jail, they can’t get a job. McCrossan lies to the extent of millions of dollars, they get a new contract and go on. That is why they thumbed their nose at the community in this process,” English said angrily before a crowd of up to 70 people at the meeting.
McCrossan did not respond to requests for comments.
In response to English’s allegation, the director of the Metropolitan Council’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Wanda Kirkpatrick, told the crowd that the state signed the new contract with McCrossan before the federal government investigations shed light on the contractor’s misrepresentation of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises regarding the Hiawatha Line project.
“When we had this new contract to be done, McCrossan was not found by the federal government to have an issue,” Kirkpatrick said. “And this is the United States where we’re all innocent until proven guilty. I would assure you that McCrossan has been working with us, and we are auditing, on a regular basis, the information that comes.”
“We’re committed to making sure that the Met Council oversees the project to insure that what happened on the Hiawatha Line with MnDOT never happens again,” said Hire Minnesota coalition organizer Avi Viswanathan. “We’re going to make sure the project is including minority and women, and that they [McCrossan] exceed their hiring goals every month.”
The Central Corridor, which will link the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis via Washington and University avenues, is scheduled for completion of construction in 2013, with passenger service beginning in 2014.
CORRECTION: According to LRT spokespersons, the project is “is creating 3,400 jobs.” The Met Council website says: “LRT will mean improved access to five major centers of economic activity – the two downtowns, the University of Minnesota, the Midway district, the state Capitol complex and many neighborhoods in between. Together, they contain almost 280,000 jobs – a number that is expected to grow to 345,000 by 2030.”
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.