Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Millions To Rebuild Infrastructure. But Whose Getting The Jobs?

One of the items President Obama ran his campaign on was that of rebuilding America's infrastructure.

Earlier this month the president met with mayors and governors from across America to disclose that several projects are on tap to restore America's roadways and byways.

As the president put it: "Our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and it is outdated."

"What we need is a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century.  A system that encourages sustainable communities with easier access to our jobs, to our schools, to our homes.  A system that decreases travel time and increases mobility.  A system that cuts congestion and ups productivity.  A system that reduces harmful emissions over time and creates jobs right now", he added.

The president also mentioned that one in five construction workers are out of work.  

While that may be the current statistic, you can bet that standing is even higher when it comes to African American construction workers.

As I listened to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood explain during the Q&A session with the media after the president's remarks in the White House Rose Garden that, "there are over 14,000 construction projects currently going on in America", I couldn't help but think about the handful of construction workers I know who are not included in those numbers, and not currently working.

Their comments about their companies being left out because contracts are being awarded to white and Latino construction companies still ring in my head.

We asked Secretary LaHood how much of the more than $50 billion (for starters) being allocated  for construction projects to rebuild highways and transportation systems will be allocated to minority and African American owned construction companies.

President Obama with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (left of President Obama), and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (right of Obama) in the White House Rose Garden during a press conference on rebuilding America's infrastructure.  Photo/CD Brown.

LaHood responded by saying that the DOT has "the strongest DBE program" going.

As I listened to the voices and look at the faces of construction workers the Obama administration has put to work, I am not so readily convinced.

Where are the voices of minorities that LaHood say are benefiting from the Recovery Act?

Areas of US construction. Click here to listen to stories of Americans at work.

Earlier this week, the White House released a statement that administration officials highlighted recent grants released by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to support more livable and sustainable communities across the country. The Partnership, which consists of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exists to build economic competitiveness by connecting housing with good jobs, transportation, and more.

As I was driving down Constitution Avenue last evening guess what I saw? Workers finally repaving the dreaded area of our Nation's Capital that has needed attention for far too long.

What I did not see were the faces of diversity doing the work - even in a diverse city like Washington, DC.

Grants Gallore
Transportation Nation

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