Gardner seeks fair slice of $90 mil contract for blacks in building SS high school trade school

By Chinta Strausberg

When business icon Ed Gardner attends today’s Chicago Public Building (PBC) Commission’s board meeting, he will be demanding to know what percentage of the $90 million contract to build a trade school at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School (CVCA) will go to African Americans.

For the 87-year-old former Soft Sheen and housing giant, who came out of retirement last year to fight for jobs and contracts for blacks, today’s meeting will be all about accountability and fairness in the contract-letting process. Gardner works closely with the Coalition of African American Leaders (C.O.A.L.) chaired by Clarence Wood.

“The Board of Education is considering appointing a group called DLR to provide the architects to do the rehab work at the CVCA,” said Gardner. “Once you decide who he architect is he in turn will have the responsibility of inspecting general contractors and will assign the sub-contractors.” Gardner said Ald. Harris “has tried to fight with the PBC to be sure that black architects get a chance to do the architectural work and black contractors” are included.

The PBC, which is chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will be held at 2:30 p.m. today in the second floor conference room at the Daley Center. CVCA opened in 1940 with 850 students as an all-male vocational school controlled by the U.S. Navy in 1941 with the beginning of WW II, according to Wikipedia.  In 1942, classes were reportedly taught 24-hours a day for the convenience of working students. In 1946, the school went coed.

Both Gardner and Trotter want to know what is the push back on including African Americans on this $90 million school project. He credited Senator Trotter for getting the funds passed for this project. Gardner said the PBC wants to decide who will get the contracts.

“We feel unless we step up to the plate, then black contractors will not get their share of that $90 million public works project,” Gardner said. He has plenty of questions he’s demanding answers to like who are the black architects on this project? What percent of the architects will be black? What black firms will be involved with the construction management?

“Who will get that $90 million of construction work? What is the community-hiring plan for the project and who will monitor it? Who will be the local black contractors utilizing plan and who will monitor that”? Asked Gardner. “Too often we have had to stand by and watch Latino’s and white working in the middle of our community and we not get our share of the business,” Gardner said.

The South Side school is home to such alumni as the king of comedy, Bernie Mac, Keena Turner, former NFL linebacker now vice president of Football Affairs for the 49ers, College Hall of Famer Chris Zorich, former NFL linebacker, former Chicago Bears super star, NBA star Juwan Howard and many others.

The massive project for the high school, located at 2100 East 87th St. that is formerly called CVS, is the brainchild and political muscle of Senator Donne E. Trotter (D-17th) who is working closely with Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

With such a rich history and located in a nearly all-black community, both Gardner and Senator Trotter want to be sure that the state dollars are equitably spent and that African Americans received a large slice of that contractual pie.

Giving the history of this historic project was Senator Trotter who said originally $75 million was appropriated out of the $31 billion capital budget passed in Springfield three-years ago for the construction of the trade school at CVCA. In the three-years since the bill was passed, Trotter said, “these dollars have been sitting there waiting for the CPS to come up with a plan, that $75 million is now $90 million based on inflation.

“I’ve gotten a commitment for an additional $15 million” for a total of $90 million to cover the rise in costs of labor and skill, Senator Trotter said. Trotter said he included language in the bill that specifically says the money can only be used “for anything else except the retrofitting of the school in the CPS and only at CVCA.

“The issue is with the CPS, the mayor and the CBC,” Trotter said explaining. When asked what does he want for this project, Senator Trotter said, “We want minorities participation on this project and not just oversight. We want to see people contracted, doing that work all the way through to the architectures to workers on the site itself,” he said.


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