POSTED: December 15th 2008

Village hits minorities setback

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

CHICAGO: Chicago’s 2016 bid suffered a major embarrassment when politicians blocked the proposed purchase of the Michael Reese Hospital site for the Olympic Village.

Members of the finance committee took to task Patrick G Ryan, the bid chairman and ceo, for what they considered inadequate minorities representation in both contracts and workforce.

Chicago 2016 has asked the city to buy 37-acre site in South Ellis Avenue on which the closure-bound hospital is sited from Medline Industries Inc. for $86m.

But Ryan, in testimony to the committee, disclosed that minorities had received only six percent of the contracts awarded by Olympic planners this year and that blacks and Hispanics hold only nine of 50 full-time Olympic jobs.

All the highest-paid independent contractors hired by the bid committee since July, 2006, are considered white. Among them was the public relations corporation Hill & Knowlton.

Aldermanic complaints

Alderman Ed Smith told Ryan: “We have to do something positive about this minority stuff. Your best effort is just not good enough. I want to see something on paper that is part of this plan that generates dollars for minority contractors."

Ald. Isaac Carothers, in support, said: “There doesn't seem to be a real effort to diversify in the area of contracts and vendorsand even paid employees," and Ald. Danny Solis added: “As far as minority participation is concerned we failed and we've got to correct that."

The finance committee chairman, Edward M Burke, sought an assurance that a minority firm would be hired to demolish the hospital.

Ryan ascribed the minorities problem to the early need for Olympic expertise – such as that available from the $2.1m Hill & Knowlton contract.

Discussion on the hospital purchase resumes on Wednesday morning and, if eventually approved, could go before the full council later in the day.

Chicago is competing against Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics with a decision being made by the  International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen in October.

Keywords · Chicago 2016 · IOC · Michael Reese Hospital · Olympic Village

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