Rahm Emanuel's next Ventra headache: minority contracting - FOX 32 News Chicago

Rahm Emanuel's next Ventra headache: minority contracting

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The disastrous rollout of the CTA's new Ventra fare payment system already has heavy potential for political fallout for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Sun-Times is reporting.

Now, the mayor has a new headache: minority contracting. Only 7.2 percent of the $329 million base contract with Cubic Transportation, the Ventra vendor — minus financing costs — is shared by black contractors.

Chicago firms are getting a 9.6 percent piece of the pie.

Twenty-six percent of that 9.6 percent is going to a white woman who once served as former Mayor Richard M. Daley's campaign manager for "marketing and outreach." Carolyn Grisko, who started her own firm after running Daley's 1995 campaign, said she has been working on the Ventra contract "since Day One"— not just since the rollout went south.

"We did all the branding, advertising and community outreach. We had to develop all the advertising in-station and out-of-station," Grisko said. Her 12-year contract coincides with Cubic's and is valued at $8.3 million over the life of the agreement.

Grisko and CTA President Forrest Claypool worked together at Daley's City Hall. She was a deputy mayoral press secretary. He served two stints as Daley's chief of staff.

But CTA officials maintained that Grisko and the other subcontractors were "part of the bid package submitted by Cubic in January 2011," five months before Claypool's arrival at the CTA.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus, called the 7.2 percent share for black contractors "outrageous" and demanded a "full investigation" to determine how and why African Americans were shortchanged.

"One of the things we've been charged to do is to make sure African-American companies in this town get a fair shake," Brookins said.

Brookins noted that the Ventra disappointment comes at a time when Emanuel's standing among black voters has already plummeted because of the teachers strike, a record number of school closings and persistent crime.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., said he's "surprised" that a CTA that "impressed" him by rewarding black contractors on the Red Line modernization project has fallen so short when it comes to implementing the Ventra system.

"I am absolutely disappointed that African Americans did not get a larger piece of the opportunity and especially that there are no African-American males awarded anything on this contract," Davis said by phone.

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