City construction contractors who hire and train ex-offenders seeking to turn their lives around would get a leg up on future city business, under a bid incentive proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday aimed at fighting crime with jobs.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was a champion of so-called “Second Chance” programs in hopes that reducing sky-high unemployment in inner-city neighborhoods could reduce the number of repeat offenders and, thereby, reduce the bloodbath on Chicago streets.
Emanuel has picked that same ball and run with it. He has brought “Second Chance” apprentice programs at the CTA to new heights at the behest of Congressmen Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, who have made championing the cause of ex-offenders a life-long crusade.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Emanuel added a new chapter to the ongoing effort.
He proposed an incentive plan that would operate on a sliding scale to reward companies that hire and train ex-offenders as apprentices on city construction jobs. The more ex-offenders they hire, the greater the advantage when it comes to bidding on future city contracts.
If five-to-ten percent of total labor hours are performed by ex-offender apprentices, the future bid advantage will be one-half of one percent. If ex-offenders perform 11-to-15 percent of the work, the future price advantage would be a full one percent.
To prime the labor pump, the city’s Department of Family and Support Services will work with workforce development programs to “recruit, screen and refer” potentially qualified candidates for those construction jobs.
At a time when homicides and shootings have spiked by 50 percent, Emanuel is clearly hoping that bringing down sky-high unemployment in inner city neighborhoods can stop, at least some of the bloodbath on Chicago streets.
An added benefit is to counter the perception that Chicago neighborhoods have been left behind by a politician who has been trying desperately to shed the “Mayor 1 percent” label.
“This new bid incentive will provide a second chance for those willing to work hard but facing challenges re-entering the workforce,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release.
“This new initiative will complement our existing programs that support and encourage the hiring of historically underutilized and underprivileged groups.”