The KCI Airport Urban Consortium plans to hold a news conference Wednesday to explain its deep concern that the proposed terminal project will not include a sufficient number of minority workers and contractors.
The group is right to be worried.
The $1 billion terminal project is a transformative opportunity. The City Council must use every tool in its toolbox to ensure that minority- and women-owned enterprises play a significant role. Contractors and workers earning good wages could bolster neighborhoods and permanently lift some of the poorest among us out of poverty.
To date, there’s evidence the city may fall short of that standard. Mayor Sly James, City Manager Troy Schulte and the City Council should be working now to make sure the airport isn’t just another missed opportunity for inclusiveness.
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We’ve said the city should be drafting a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with Edgemoor Infrastructure, the chosen proposer on the project. That document will outline the company’s commitments to the community, and it’s now more important than ever.
The MOU must be signed as soon as possible, long before Election Day in November.
But additional steps must be taken. The city should draft a “fair share” side agreement that sets specific hiring goals for minority- and women-owned businesses and minority workers.
It should also include specific community benefit requirements that extend training and counseling to minority communities and untrained workers.
The agreement should set specific enforcement mechanisms and serious penalties for non-compliance. The city may wish to form an oversight board to keep an eye on the project.
The city also should require Edgemoor, or any other firm that may still be pursuing the project, to sign the fair share agreement soon, perhaps by Oct. 1.
Edgemoor has a special responsibility here. Members of the minority community are deeply skeptical about the firm’s commitment to inclusiveness and troubled by the hiring record of Clarkson Construction, the building partner. Edgemoor’s proposal appears weak on minority hiring targets and must be strengthened.
A public, written promise to meet aggressive, transformative hiring goals would do much to allay those fears — and, potentially, could get more yes voters to the polls.
Burns & McDonnell signed exclusive agreements with several minority-owned firms as part of its bid for the airport. It should release those firms from their contracts immediately, allowing them to work with Edgemoor. If not, Burns & McDonnell’s promise to improve opportunities for minority companies will properly be seen only as lip service.
Finally: We’re waiting for the selection committee to provide notes on its work, including a decision matrix if one exists. It’s possible Edgemoor got high marks for its minority hiring promises. We simply don’t know.
That lack of information has fed suspicion and anger from some community leaders and some members of the City Council.
Members of the Urban Consortium said Tuesday they don’t oppose progress on the airport. Good.
But they want these questions answered soon. So do we.