Illinois congressman Bobby Rush, a Democrat whose district encompasses a portion of Chicago's South Side, is giving the Chicago Transit Authority until Friday to make a decision on his request that African-Americans be guaranteed "35 to 40 percent" of the estimated 700 job opportunities to be created by the much-touted new 95th Street Red Line terminal.
"When they did the Red Line renovation, that kind of turned the corner on minority participation, but we are poised to fight if we have to fight,” Rush said Monday during a ground-breaking event, the Sun-Times reports.
"Almost as important as building this station is building the lives of people who live around and use the station. You can't build good lives without jobs," he said. "Whatever it takes to get the jobs and the contracts, we’re prepared to do that."
According to the Sun-Times, Rush has given the CTA a deadline of end-of-day Friday to decide whether to shake hands on a deal to grant African-Americans a "35 to 40 percent" portion of jobs and contracts on the $240 million project.
Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn joined Rush and other political heavies to break ground on a snazzier update of the decaying 45-year-old South Side-based terminal, for which a makeover will include a pair of sleekly modern buildings connected by a commuter-friendly skyway-pedway.
"We have to work hard to make sure we don't get all of the dust and all of the delay but that we get some of the dough also," Rush told NBC Chicago of his desire to open construction opportunities to job-seekers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods surrounding the station.
CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said the mass transit service handed a 93 percent portion of one contract and 41 percent of another to African-American businesses with a third major contract to come, telling the Sun-Times: "One of the things the mayor has insisted on is African-American and community participation. We’re committed to that and stand by that."
The 95th Street venture is the next splashy step in the successful, job-creating $500 million revamp of the Red Line's South section, for which Emanuel has won kudos. And he could use more of them: The mayor, running for re-election this February, has been plagued by declining approval numbers among African-American constituents, a crucial vote for a second term at City Hall. Last week, he scrapped plans to name a brand-new North Side high school after President Barack Obama amid backlash from critics who wondered why he overlooked the South Side, where the First Family has a home.