African-American Alliance Sends Letter to Barack Obama Concerning Jobs on MDC Project
By Andy Hart
March 19, 2009
The Greater Hartford African American Alliance (GHAAA) is soliciting help from both the State Capitol and the White House in its lengthy dispute with the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). GHAAA leaders say they are working to ensure that Hartford residents and minorities get their “fair share” of jobs that will be created by the MDC’s $1.6 billion Clean Water Project.
The MDC has publicly stated that it is committed to hiring minority and women-owned contractors on the Clean Water Project.
At the Federal level, the GHAAA has written a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their concerns with MDC hiring practices.
In the letter, GHAAA President Clarke King writes, “Large companies like the MDC have historically found ways not to train and employ substantial numbers of Hartford residents...Sadly, entities of this type often behave paternalistically as though they are somehow doing the community a favor. They are mistaken, especially when such companies train and then hire people with no ties to the community, who often work within sight of residents who have been clamoring for employment opportunities for years to no avail.”
The letter was given to Congressman John Larson for delivery to the White House. Paul Mounds, a spokesman for Larson, said the letter is being delivered this week.
On the State level, the GHAAA arranged a meeting with Hartford’s legislative delegation concerning the issue on Thursday, March 5, at the Legislative Office Building. State Representative Marie Kirkley-Bey said GHAAA members were given an hour to present their concerns and then MDC officials were given an approximately equal amount of time to present their side of the dispute.
“We met with the MDC officials and discussed with them the concerns that had been raised by the African-American Alliance, in some cases rightly so,” said Kirkley-Bey.
As a result of the meeting, MDC Counsel R. Bartley Halloran agreed to work with State Representatives Kelvin Roldan and Kenneth Green to find a way for the MDC to satisfy the concerns raised by the GHAAA.
“We will be trying to reach a conclusion regarding access to meaningful employment for Hartford residents on such a significant economic development project,” said Roldan. He added that he and Green expect to begin talks with Halloran in the next week or two.
One of the major points of dispute between the GHAAA and the MDC concerns the $200,000 which the legislature has ordered the MDC to allocate for a training program for the Clean Water Project.
The MDC sent the training program out to bid last December. It received three proposals back but two of them were late. The only proposal that was received on time, which was from the Connecticut Training Academy (CTA), was rejected as incomplete. The training program is in the process of going out to bid again.
The GHAA helped to set up the CTA in the summer of 2007. The Academy was specifically designed to train city residents and minorities to work on the Clean Water Project. A pilot class of about 15 people graduated from the CTA in the summer of 2008, but it has since suspended operations until additional funding is obtained.
CTA Master Instructor Rudie Daniels said he has a waiting list of over 200 people who want to begin training and he describe the current situation as “pathetic.”