JOLIET – The president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce told the City Council on Monday that his organization would file a complaint with the Justice Department if the city did not develop a minority participation ordinance.
“I hope we don’t have to do this, ladies and gentleman,” Larry Ivory said.
Describing Joliet’s minority contracting record as “God awful,” Ivory said he had been assured that the National Black Chamber of Commerce would file a complaint if the city did not take action.
Ivory’s appearance before the City Council was preceded last week by a downtown demonstration by Black Contractors of Will County contending that they were being kept out of contracts on the $215 million Will County Courthouse under construction.
Cornel Darden, who chairs the Joliet African American Business Association and appeared with Ivory at the Joliet meeting, plans to take up the issue with county officials.
The courthouse is a county, not city, project. But Ivory said there has been a history of black contractors not getting a fair share on city contracts.
“If you look at minority contracting in Joliet, I don’t think anyone can argue that the numbers aren’t there,” Ivory said. “I don’t think they’re not there because you don’t want to do it, but maybe you don’t know how to do it.”
Ivory said his organization would be willing to help Joliet develop the kind of minority participation ordinances that exist in other Illinois cities.
Council member Bettye Gavin, who chairs the council’s diversity and community relations committee, said that committee would take up the issue.
It’s not the first time that the city’s diversity committee took up the issue after black contractors complained about the lack of minority participation. The last time was in 2014, when the committee was chaired by Council member Jan Quillman.
“The problem is the contractors that come in hire minority contractors but they don’t hire locally,” Quillman said.
Willie Sellers, a truck hauling contractor who has been outspoken on the issue, said Monday that he thinks contractors will see progress in their cause.
“It’s going to change this time because we have somebody speaking directly to the governor and talking from a political standpoint,” Sellers said.
Ivory in citing his credentials noted that he had been appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner to a panel that sets minority hiring goals for state government and has served with other boards that address the issue.
“If you didn’t have a goal, minority participation would be nonexistent,” Ivory said. “People are comfortable doing business they way they’ve been doing business.”