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Joliet council committee revisits minority contracting ordinance

A Joliet City Council committee for the first time in nearly two years took another look at the question of a minority participation ordinance on Wednesday but didn't have answers.

The Diversity & Community Relations Committee decided to meet again in a month to consider a study that could pave the way for such an ordinance, which is where the committee left off in May 2018 when it last considered the issue.

Local black contractors for years have been pushing the city to develop a minority participation ordinance they say would give them a better chance to work on local public works projects.

"I don't really know what to say tonight," Cornel Darden Jr., president of the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce, said to the committee. "I'm not sure what you guys have been doing for the last two years for minority participation."

Darden said the city's hand will be forced by a new state law that would tie future availability of Motor Fuel Tax funds to minority participation ordinances. Motor Fuel Tax money is a major source of street repair funding for municipalities.

Joliet Director of Community Development Kendall Jackson said he will review the details of any new mandates directed at minority participation ordinances for the next committee meeting.

Jackson also said he would provide more information about a potential disparity study, which would likely cost somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000.

"A lot of that depends on the complexity of the study – how far back a municipality wants its records to be looked at," Jackson said.

Advocates for a disparity study say it is a prerequisite for development of a minority participation ordinance. The study would examine the city's contracting history to determine if minority contractors were getting a fair share of work.

Committee Chairwoman Bettye Gavin commented on the committee not having met since May 2018, saying the committee only convenes when a meeting is requested.

"It is a committee that is done by request," she said.

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