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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 08:48 pm

About-face?

Council to consider repeal of controversial development-related ordinance

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Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson
Untitled Document Aldermen are still demanding answers from the city of Springfield more than a month after they approved an ordinance tacking on an apprenticeship requirement to development projects that receive $500,000 or more in city, state, or federal funds. At Tuesday’s meeting of the finance committee, Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson succeeded in passing on a repeal of the ordinance for full council consideration next week. Simpson, along with Ward 4 Ald. Frank Kunz, has been against the ordinance since its May 20 approval and says the other aldermen don’t understand how the ordinance will affect future city development. At a recent meeting hosted by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Simpson says, representatives from the Department of Labor told her that Springfield already has “a reputation for creating complications and levels of bureaucracy and that developers don’t want to build here.”
“Springfield is growing, and people need jobs,” Simpson says. “Why would we want to do anything to prohibit that?”
Several of the aldermen, including those who originally voted for the ordinance, have requested such additional information as background on city-funded development projects and a list of subcontractors hired for city-funded work. Ward 7 Ald. Debbie Cimarossa, who was not present at the May 20 meeting, says it’s clear that the issue needs further investigation. Laborers Local 477 business manager Brad Schaive, a major proponent of the ordinance, says the stricter requirements will keep taxpayer-funded projects on track and ensure that all developers follow the same rules [see Amanda Robert, “Overseers,” May 29]. But others have criticized the ordinance — the apprenticeship requirement in particular — as a move to keep out nonunion workers. Rob Winchester, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, represents nonunion contractors trained in apprenticeship programs, but, he says, the ordinance still poses a problem, because ABC doesn’t train laborers. Instead, he explains, the trade association cross-trains other workers to fulfill those job responsibilities to cut costs and improve efficiency. Because of this “little technicality that they’re failing to mention,” Winchester says, the ordinance will only allow union companies to bid on $500,000-plus city development projects. “What they’ll do, and what they’re already doing at the state level, is, automatically the unions will file a protest if their companies aren’t the lowest bidder,” he says. “The city will say [the nonunion companies] don’t have anyone in the Laborers, so their bid will be disqualified. The union company will then get the bid.”
Schaive says he doesn’t know much about ABC’s practices or certifications and contends that the issue is not about stifling competition but instead about demanding accountability. “We go to the aldermen, say we found problems with accountability of city money and of taxpayers’ money,” he says. “They’re going to take that seriously and do whatever they can to rectify it.”

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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