CITY SCHOOLS Councilman: Racism hinders hiring goals

Nine minority companies and four female companies have worked on projects.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A city councilman told school board members he believes racism is at the root of a struggle to get minority, female and city residents hired on a school district construction project.
Clarence Boles, D-6th, attended the school board meeting Tuesday as part of his campaign to persuade construction project contractors to adhere to district goals of hiring 20 percent women, 20 percent minorities and 50 percent school district residents on all construction sites.
"This 20-20-50 initiative is one of the most benign yet effective phrases I've heard in construction in a long time. It excludes no one," Boles said.
Boles further reminded board members of the work done four years ago to persuade voters to support the school district's construction project.
"A diverse group came to the community and said, 'Please support the project,' and the community responded and came out in good faith to support the project. I say now, when does the project come out and support the community?" said Boles, who sat on the school board until January.
The bar is set
Earlier this month, the councilman challenged contractors and union leaders to contact him to find ways to meet the goals, threatening to mobilize the minority community to picket and shut down a construction site if progress is not made. He said he has not heard from any contractors or union leaders.
Boles said he believes white union leaders and construction managers have yet to make good faith efforts to help meet the hiring goals. The matter points to racism in the city, which only recently had its first black police chief and its first black female superintendent appointed and has never had a black mayor, he said.
"There are people who believe there is no racism in the city of Youngstown," Boles said. "We should not be having this discussion in 2004."
Key figures
Boles said he has met with board President Jacqueline Taylor, as well as Al Curry, the district's equal employment opportunity officer, for the construction project and hopes to again meet with Taylor and incoming Superintendent Wendy Webb this week.
Curry released numbers showing the breakdown of the 170 workers at six construction sites.
At Harding Elementary School, minority workers represent 11 percent of total workers; school district residents, 10 percent; and there are no women. At Taft Elementary School, minority workers represent 20 percent; school district residents, 32 percent; and women, 1 percent. At West Elementary School, minority workers represent 17 percent; school district residents, 6 percent; and there are no women.
At Chaney High School, East High School and P. Ross Berry Middle School, there have been no minority, female or resident workers.
Curry also presented a list of minority and female companies that have worked or are working on the Harding and Taft project. The list includes nine minority companies, including construction management, painting, drywall, wiring, trucking and architectural companies and others. The list also contains four female companies, including excavating and tiling companies.
Union training
Curry pointed out that the main contractors on the job sites are union contractors, and workers must be in unions to get jobs. While Curry has compiled a list of many minorities and residents ready to go to work, a hurdle has been getting them into union apprenticeship programs, which are offered only during short periods each year.
Superintendent Benjamin L. McGee pointed out that the district is working to remedy the matter, but some initiatives are long-term. For example, he said, new programs at the district's Choffin Career and Technical Center offer training in carpentry, brick laying, painting and construction management.
He also called on the community to work together toward the goal.
"The numbers aren't as complementary as we want them to be at this time, but they can be if we develop a unified approach," he said

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