The row over race in Chicago mayor's contest

Ethel C. Fenig
Chicago's loony, three ring mayoral contest circus continues. While in one ring some question whether contender Rahm Emanuel (D) is a legal resident, another sideshow erupted.

Multi-tasking minister, state senator and now mayoral candidate James Meeks (D) upset the usually upsettable who happened to hear him define minority on a radio station.

Meeks said then that minority business set-asides should only go to African American-owned businesses.

"The word 'minority,' from our standpoint, should mean 'African American,'" Meeks said, according to video of the appearance on the FOX-TV Chicago web site. "I don't think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title."

Set-asides are a euphemism for affirmative action priorities guaranteeing that a government contract should go to a "minority owned" business, no matter the skill, competence, experience, price, efficacy of that business compared to others bidding on the project. In corrupt Chicago set-asides have become a lucrative scam whereby a business quickly adds an approved minority or two or whatever is required for an ownership front to qualify.

Women, Asians and Hispanics, upset at losing their cherished victim minority status, complained causing Meeks to further explain his explanation.

Today, the Meeks campaign released a statement saying that the candidate "strongly believes all minority and women-owned businesses deserve their fair share of City contract opportunities."

But Meeks' campaign said corruption in the program has left African American-owned businesses "the most underrepresented among city contractors. Lucrative contracts have repeatedly gone to companies disguised as minority- or women-owned, resulting in multiple investigations, firings and imprisonment on this issue," Meeks' campaign's statement reads.

Hey, that's Chicago, the city that works, where the trains run on time though.

"As mayor, he would put an end to the corruption and lack of accountability that has been allowed to go unchecked," the statement reads.

Like no calorie, heart healthy, nutrient rich, good for you delicious doughnuts, that would be nice but not realistic in the dynamics of Chicago's political and economic structure.

Further explaining the explanation of the explanation, Meeks later refined his definition of who is and who is not a minority.

because we use women, Asians and Hispanics who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against."

Hours after making those remarks, Meeks back-tracked by saying he would only exclude white women if elected mayor. The set-aside program currently earmarks 25 percent of all city contracts for minorities and 5 percent for companies owned by women.

"I don't believe white women should be considered in that count ....You have white women in the category. They receive contracts. Then, white men receive contracts. Where does that leave everybody else?" he told Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 news.

So called representatives of the "non discriminated against minorities" angrily defended their professional affirmative action victim rights status.

Hedy Ratner, co-president of the Women's Business Development Center, was already "furious" at Meeks. She argued Thursday that, if anything, the 5 percent set-aside for women "should be higher."

"Is he saying that this should be an African-American city with policies only for African Americans? I'm surprised that a candidate for mayor who wants to represent the entire city would exclude a majority of its citizens," she said.

Paul Cerpa, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA), said the federal government has made it clear that the "presumptive group" of those historically discriminated against includes blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and "women, regardless of ethnicity."

"To draw the line in the sand and say, ‘This is only mine - not yours' doesn't allow everyone to play in the sandbox," Cerpa said.

Other non discriminated against--albeit white--minorities in Chicago's multi ethnic immigrant population such as Irish, Italians, Jews, Polish, gays, Greeks and mixed background did not publicly react. Yet.

Chicago's present mayor, Richard Daley (D), who shocked Chicago when he declined to run for re election which he would have in all probability won without breaking into his considerable campaign fund, defended set-asides.


"The late Harold Washington (black, ECF) started this. We kept the commitment, not just an executive order, but we followed with an ordinance," Daley said at a City Hall news conference to announce he has created an advisory committee of business leaders and university officials to recommend how to turn the former Michael Reese Hospital site into a technology park for businesses."We're one of the few cities to uphold (a minority contractor program), and it's doing very well, and we're very, very happy with it, and I think that speaks for itself," Daley said when asked about Meeks' criticism.

"Multiple investigations, firings, imprisonments; corruption and lack of accountability that has been allowed to go unchecked" and all.



Chicago's loony, three ring mayoral contest circus continues. While in one ring some question whether contender Rahm Emanuel (D) is a legal resident, another sideshow erupted.

Multi-tasking minister, state senator and now mayoral candidate James Meeks (D) upset the usually upsettable who happened to hear him define minority on a radio station.

Meeks said then that minority business set-asides should only go to African American-owned businesses.

"The word 'minority,' from our standpoint, should mean 'African American,'" Meeks said, according to video of the appearance on the FOX-TV Chicago web site. "I don't think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title."

Set-asides are a euphemism for affirmative action priorities guaranteeing that a government contract should go to a "minority owned" business, no matter the skill, competence, experience, price, efficacy of that business compared to others bidding on the project. In corrupt Chicago set-asides have become a lucrative scam whereby a business quickly adds an approved minority or two or whatever is required for an ownership front to qualify.

Women, Asians and Hispanics, upset at losing their cherished victim minority status, complained causing Meeks to further explain his explanation.

Today, the Meeks campaign released a statement saying that the candidate "strongly believes all minority and women-owned businesses deserve their fair share of City contract opportunities."

But Meeks' campaign said corruption in the program has left African American-owned businesses "the most underrepresented among city contractors. Lucrative contracts have repeatedly gone to companies disguised as minority- or women-owned, resulting in multiple investigations, firings and imprisonment on this issue," Meeks' campaign's statement reads.

Hey, that's Chicago, the city that works, where the trains run on time though.

"As mayor, he would put an end to the corruption and lack of accountability that has been allowed to go unchecked," the statement reads.

Like no calorie, heart healthy, nutrient rich, good for you delicious doughnuts, that would be nice but not realistic in the dynamics of Chicago's political and economic structure.

Further explaining the explanation of the explanation, Meeks later refined his definition of who is and who is not a minority.

because we use women, Asians and Hispanics who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against."

Hours after making those remarks, Meeks back-tracked by saying he would only exclude white women if elected mayor. The set-aside program currently earmarks 25 percent of all city contracts for minorities and 5 percent for companies owned by women.

"I don't believe white women should be considered in that count ....You have white women in the category. They receive contracts. Then, white men receive contracts. Where does that leave everybody else?" he told Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 news.

So called representatives of the "non discriminated against minorities" angrily defended their professional affirmative action victim rights status.

Hedy Ratner, co-president of the Women's Business Development Center, was already "furious" at Meeks. She argued Thursday that, if anything, the 5 percent set-aside for women "should be higher."

"Is he saying that this should be an African-American city with policies only for African Americans? I'm surprised that a candidate for mayor who wants to represent the entire city would exclude a majority of its citizens," she said.

Paul Cerpa, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA), said the federal government has made it clear that the "presumptive group" of those historically discriminated against includes blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and "women, regardless of ethnicity."

"To draw the line in the sand and say, ‘This is only mine - not yours' doesn't allow everyone to play in the sandbox," Cerpa said.

Other non discriminated against--albeit white--minorities in Chicago's multi ethnic immigrant population such as Irish, Italians, Jews, Polish, gays, Greeks and mixed background did not publicly react. Yet.

Chicago's present mayor, Richard Daley (D), who shocked Chicago when he declined to run for re election which he would have in all probability won without breaking into his considerable campaign fund, defended set-asides.


"The late Harold Washington (black, ECF) started this. We kept the commitment, not just an executive order, but we followed with an ordinance," Daley said at a City Hall news conference to announce he has created an advisory committee of business leaders and university officials to recommend how to turn the former Michael Reese Hospital site into a technology park for businesses."We're one of the few cities to uphold (a minority contractor program), and it's doing very well, and we're very, very happy with it, and I think that speaks for itself," Daley said when asked about Meeks' criticism.

"Multiple investigations, firings, imprisonments; corruption and lack of accountability that has been allowed to go unchecked" and all.