CITY COUNCIL Minority hiring issue brings arguments
There were about 10 minutes of arguing, raised voices and finger-wagging.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Councilman Clarence Boles says he is taking his investigation into minority hiring on public construction projects to the state attorney general.
Boles, D-6th, wants council to investigate, but the legislative committee stopped him Tuesday.
He vowed afterward to continue on. Boles said he will seek the attorney general's help.
"This is not a dead issue yet," he said. "Equity is not debatable."
Boles sought legislation giving the education committee, which he chairs, the power to investigate. The probe would be into the recruitment and hiring of minorities by any agency that does construction using public money. The legislation would give the committee power to issue subpoenas, compel witnesses to appear and force agencies to turn over documents and other evidence.
Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, sought a motion on Boles' behalf to pass the legislation to the full council.
Gillam said it would be a shame not to do something to change a lack of minority hiring. Racism remains alive and well in the city and across the country, he said.
"Ray Charles is dead and blind, and he can see that," he said.
The two other committee members, however, failed to second the motion, killing it.
Boles and Gillam are black. Committee chairman Michael Rapovy, D-5th, and member Mark S. Memmer, D-7th, are white.
Rapovy said the education committee wasn't the place for such an investigation. Rapovy, a carpenter and union leader, also took exception to Boles' contention that unions have discriminated against minorities.
"I wholeheartedly disagree. I won't be a part of it," he said.
Memmer said the education committee isn't equipped to conduct a large-scale investigation. He also said Boles never consulted him about taking on the task. Memmer suggested a council-appointed group might be needed instead.
Memmer also said that intervention into minority hiring practices is needed. However, he said it should be by strong leaders who guide young minorities to get the education needed to work in construction.
Beforehand, Boles gave a short speech about why he is seeking the investigation. He touched on the wide range of agencies he is interested in, racism and sexism and how hiring goals are always talked about but never met.
"We have a wonderful opportunity to be progressive," he said.
It took about 40 minutes before the discussion degenerated into arguing, raised voices and finger-wagging among Boles, Gillam and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th.
Each said they were offended by the others' words or characterizations of the issue. Boles left the room briefly after one dust up. Righetti flung a piece of paper at one point.
Righetti had said she is a minority, too, but wanted to see facts about the situation before she'd consider voting for an investigation. Boles accused Righetti, who is white, of listening to white union leaders but not him.
Gillam and Righetti argued over who started a racial argument.
Rapovy wrapped up the meeting after about 10 minutes of loud debate.