Under a local-employment initiative proposed by the City, certain projects involving City funds would be required to have Evanston residents perform part of the labor. At a special City Council meeting on Sept. 4, Lloyd Shepard, business development coordinator for the City said, “The purpose of this local-employment program is to address the lack of residents hired for local projects.” The program provides that Evanston residents “must be hired to perform 5 percent of the total work hours at the construction site, and a minimum of one Evanston resident must be hired for those projects with a value of $500,000 or more and lasting for more than 90 continuous days,” he added.

Mr. Shepard said Evanston was comparable to Hartford, Conn., which had implemented a similar ordinance as an “affirmative-action plan to mitigate the effects of discrimination against minorities and women in the contracting industry.” The Hartford ordinance, he said, is triggered at the $10,000-level and mandates that 30 percent of the construction-project hours be performed by local residents.

There was no discussion about whether Evanston’s program would be an affirmative-action program or whether there is a need in the City for affirmative action to correct or address past discrimination against minorities and women by the City of Evanston.

“Since employment of local residents [for Evanston contracts] is not mandatory, Evanston residents have not been hired,” Mr. Shepard said. He did say, though, that Evanston’s long-range sewer project has “provided job training for 123 low- and moderate-income Evanstonians at a cost of $578,000 and provided jobs to 83 low- and moderate-income Evanstonians, generating $2 million in wages.” Mr. Shepard added that the City would maintain a workforce database that includes union membership.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, questioned why a project had to be both of 90 days’ duration and more than $500,000. “We are going to repair the Civic Center roof at a cost of about $2 million. What if that project lasted only 45 days? Then under this program we would not have to hire Evanston residents.”

Ald. Rainey also said she was in favor of hiring Evanston residents rather than minority firms outside of Evanston for Evanston jobs. “I’m tired of contractors coming up here from Blue Island just because they are minority contractors. I think we should be hiring Evanstonians,” she said. Mr. Shepard said he was “in favor of hiring minorities.”

The Administration and Public Works Committee is scheduled to discuss the program – perhaps incorporating some of Ald. Rainey’s concerns – at its Sept. 22 meeting.

Aldermen also discussed whether residence in Evanston should be a requirement for certain City employees and decided to address that issue separately from the local-employment program.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...