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Monday, February 18, 2008

Cleveland schools finally get minority watchdog

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2008 at 5:32 AM

Seven years ago, the Cleveland school board pledged to give minority-owned firms 20 percent of its construction work. It also decreed that 20 percent would go to city residents, and 5 percent to companies owned by women. But when it came to backing these pledges on the district’s $1.5 billion rebuilding project, the previous vows suddenly seemed like much too much work… First, groups such as Hard Hatted Women and the Black Trades Council were hired to monitor jobs, but they had no enforcement power. If they discovered that a white contractor was listing secretaries as bricklayers to pad its minority stats, they couldn’t do anything about it. [“Hard Disappointment,” First Punch, May 30.] Then, in April 2006, the district decided it could no longer afford to even pretend it was abiding by its own rules. A few months later, CEO Eugene Sanders pledged to bring the job in-house. But nothing happened. Despite persistent criticism from the project’s watchdog group, the Bond Accountability Commission, the district refused to hire a diversity monitor for a full year-and-a-half. Finally, last month, Monique Trice landed the job. But she’s still relying on prime contractors to report who their subcontractors will be. It’s a long-standing practice that’s allowed many a white firm to hire black front companies just to say they have black people working the job [“Black on Black Crime,” February 21, 2007]. But Trice is promising to get her shoes dirty and begin conducting site checks. “In the summer time, we will take a really close look at what’s going on and who’s at the site,” she says. After seven years, it’s about time. Here’s hoping she breaks all rules of Cleveland government and follows through. – Lisa Rab

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