April 25- May 2, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
The Greater Hartford African American Alliance (GHAAA) held a rally in front of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) headquarters in Downtown Hartford last Wednesday to demand that the MDC meet the required minority hiring set-asides for its upcoming Clean Water Project. The requirements were laid out in a proposed bill put fourth by State Senator Eric Coleman and State Representative Art Feltman (see Hartford News, April 11, page 2).
At Wednesday’s rally, Rev. Nora Wyatt said MDC officials had told him and other members of the GHAAA that the MDC did not feel it could find enough qualified minority contractors and workers to meet the requirements of the proposed legislation.
Mayor Eddie Perez also sent a letter to the MDC, stressing the importance of the set-asides to minorities in the Greater Hartford area.
The MDC’s response to the Mayor provided a sign that the organization might be moving away from the current stalemate and toward some sort of compromise.
In the letter to Perez, MDC Chairman William DiBella states, “It is important that the workforce learn skills that are essential to our project and which can lead to their long-term prosperity. In fact, we recommend that the proposed Clean Water Project legislation include a state-funded education and training funding commitment to achieve the desired goal of increasing local capabilities to provide the construction and related services.”
GHAAA President Clarke King said the MDC statement on making education and training a part of the proposed legislation is “a step in the right direction.”
“If that’s what they’re saying [in the letter to Perez], then fine. We’ll back them up on that. That’s what we’re working for...but saying and doing are two different things, we’ll see,” said King.
According to the MDC, the crux of the problem is whether enough qualified minority contractors and employees can be found to fill the requirements that the proposed legislation stipulates.
To take the guesswork out of that question, the MDC wants to partner with the city to do a study of the region’s labor resources as it relates to the Clean Water Project.
In his letter to Perez, DiBella states, “As you know from our discussions with City staff, the District has expressed its willingness to perform, and partially fund, a joint District/City Disparity study. We share your vision and belief that a Disparity study is essential to ensure that any initiatives are legally defensible, and recognize the importance of workforce capacity building.”
The Clean Water Project is the largest in MDC history with an estimated price tag of $1.6 billion.