United by their alienation from the city’s leadership, a dozen branch library backers met this afternoon to exchange complaints with a similar number of advocates for minority contractors.

Mary Rosinski speaking at the Lake Street Church gathering.

Mary Rosinski of the Friends of the Evanston Public Library told the group at the Lake Street Church that the city “keeps moving the goal posts” for their effort to save the branch libraries. And noting the proposed 2011 budget released by the city manager Friday, she said “now they want to take away the branches completely.”

Lori Keenan of the group said, “Kids and families from the city’s west side are just not going to go to the downtown library.”

She added, “The City Council and the manager seem to have their fingers in the gears” trying to obstruct the group’s goals.

And Ellen Newcomer said the Friends board will meet Wednesday to plan “for starting a storefront library on the west side with books from the Friends.”

Wilfred Gadsden of the Citizens’ Lighthouse Community Land Trust spoke for the contractors’ group.

For their part, leaders of the Evanston Minority Business Consortium expressed deep distrust that minority contractors who live in Evanston will benefit from the $18 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant won by the city from the federal government.

Told that the city manager says 40 percent of the work done so far has gone to Evanston businesses, organizer Wilfred Gadsden said that didn’t mean that minorities were getting any of the work — which so far mostly has involved architects, appraisers and attorneys.

Another organizer, Bennett Johnson, said in an interview that he expects much of the work rehabilitating 100 housing units under the grant will go to Hispanic contractors that the city’s private partner in the program, Brinshore Development, already works with in Chicago.

Listening to speakers at the meeting.

Johnson also claimed that the program would ultimately reduce the black population of Evanston.

Asked whether local contractors shouldn’t have to submit the lowest bids to get the work, Johnson said the city has the ability to manipulate bid awards by deciding which bids are “responsive and responsible.” A minimum of 85 percent of the subcontracting work on the project should be awarded to minority, women-owned or Evanston-based firms because, he said, minorities make up 85 percent of the population of the 5th Ward, where much of the work will be done.

The city has promised to award at least 25 percent of the work to minority- or women-owned or Evanston-based firms, and city officials have said that the proportion could be much higher if the local firms submit the lowest bids. City-wide, roughly a third of Evanston’s population is non-white.

Some contractors at the meeting also objected to the requirements set to qualify for the program, including liability insurance and other rules. One said he couldn’t successfully apply for the jobs because he pays his workers in cash.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. How does Lori know who goes to the main library?

    Has anyone done a survey on who goes to the main library? Has anyone talked with the fabulous Christie Chandler Stahl who runs the Loft teen space about what kids use that space? Has anyone recognized the incredible work children’s librarian Rick Kinnebrew has done in outreach throughout our community, including in the 5th ward?

  2. Clarify the Evanston Minority Business Consortium’s position

    OK, help me out here: the article reports that an organizer from the Evanston Minority Business Consortium said "that he expects much of the work rehabilitating 100 housing units under the grant will go to Hispanic contractors." So, I’m not sure what the problem is. If they are calling for minority businesses or local businesses to get contracts under the grants and he already expects that to happen, why the protest?

    1. Not the only minority in town.

      Exactly what I was thinking. Suddenly, there’s competition and it’s unwelcomed. Hispanics absolutely, make up the minority in the 5th ward. Why can’t they be allowed a piece of the pie? Very poor position to take for the MINORITY business Consortium.

      1. Priorities II

        While the majority of the minority contractors in the EMBC are African-American, I don’t think it would be fair to say that they’re opposed to the city giving work to Hispanic contractors — if those contractors are Evanston-based. 

        — Bill

    2. Priorities

      EMBC is primarily concerned about Evanston-based minority contractors. Therefore it does not see providing jobs to minority contractors who aren’t based in Evanston as doing much to achieve its goals.

      The city’s formulation — which gives preference to Evanston-based businesses owned by anybody, minority contractors based anywhere, and woman-owned businesses based anywhere — is an effort to harmonize local goals with federal anti-discrimination rules and requirements that work generally be awarded to the low bidder.

      — Bill

  3. Why?

    Lori Keenan of the group said"Kids and families from the city’s west side are just not going to go to the downtown library."– You’re probably correct Lori. But the bigger question is why? Why won’t they go to the Main library? It is closer to their ward than most of the residents in this city. Why can’t they travel the 6 blocks straight down from BooCoo? This will result in the same failure as the West side farmers market. We couldn’t possibly expect the west side residents to travel all the way to the current location. Therefore, a new market had to be created. Still, the residents did not attend and now the city feels obligated to provide a bus to transport them to the market downtown.  Seems a bit unfair to me. So again I ask why?

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