Rep. Bobby Rush got some powerful support Friday in his drive to force Metra to bolster minority participation on a $133 million railroad construction project known as the “Englewood Flyover.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel all supported the end sought by the Chicago Democrat without justifying the means: a threat to shut down the project if minority contractors don’t get their fair share.
“I certainly understand Congressman Rush’s frustration. This Flyover is taking place in a part of Chicago where there is high minority unemployment. He represents these folks. They were there when we cut the ribbon,” Durbin said.
“I don’t want to shut it down. But, I want to join him in putting pressure on those who are involved in it to move toward more diversity employment, more Illinois employment.”
After joining Durbin and Quinn to announce CTA Red Line improvements, Emanuel dismissed the shutdown threat.
“He’s got everybody’s attention now to focus on what Metra has to do to make sure that the contract and the employees reflect the values we state as a city and a state – that everybody is gonna participate and have a chance to participate,” the mayor said.
“Somebody can say, ‘Well, do you like the tactic?’ Forget the tactic. He’s got peoples’ attention, which means we’re gonna get a solution to this problem.”
Quinn said he plans to talk to Metra about the congressman’s legitimate complaint about the project to build a bridge near 63rd and State to eliminate backups for 78 Metra trains, 14 Amtrak trains and 46 freight trains each day.
Pressed on whether he supports the shutdown threat, Quinn said, “No. We have to work to make sure everybody is included in the mission. My parents grew up in Englewood and lived there for many years. Englewood is as much a part of Illinois as any other place … We want to make sure people in the neighborhood have a fighting chance to participate.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Rush was threatening to stop Metra “in its tracks” unless black contractors get a piece of the pie.
Rush went public after getting a tip from a Metra source that none of the major bidders for the first $86 million in Englewood Flyover work included African-Americans. The only black participation is a security contract worth $110,000, the congressman said.
“I want Metra to rebid this contract. There is no way that this contract will fly,” said Rush who famously wore a hoodie on the floor of the U.S. House during the outcry over Trayvon Martin’s death.
“And there is no way that Metra’s trains will run in the city of Chicago if this is the contract. We will stop Metra in its tracks, okay, on the tracks ‘cause we are not going to sit back and allow this mega-million dollar project to come into our neighborhood where unemployment is sky-high.”
Asked to comment on the support Rush got from Durbin, Quinn and Emanuel, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said, “This is a complex issue with many different perspectives. The issue is expected to come up at our May  board meeting, at which time it will be addressed.”
Earlier this week, Gillis argued Metra had spent two years working with Rush to recruit and “educate” minority companies and “team them up with prime contractors” likely to bid on the project.