By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
The Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) in
collaboration with State Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-11), and
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) held a press conference, Jan. 18, outside of the Obama Foundation Offices near Harper Court due to the lack of Hispanic firms involved in the Obama Presidential Center project.
“When the whole project was being unveiled in regard to the Obama [Center], we [as Hispanics] felt pretty much ignored in the beginning process,” said Jorge Perez, executive director of HACIA. “[When it came to] contracts and involvement in the actual projects, [there were] No Hispanic firms involved at all.”
During the protest, both the group and its Board of Directors expressed their disappointment and concerns with the Obama Foundation’s approach to procurement on the design and construction of the new, state of the art Obama Presidential Center and the manner in which the selection and evaluation process was “carried out,” Perez said.
According to Perez, what concerned HACIA, was the lack of acknowledgment by the Obama Foundation of the role Hispanics and Hispanic-owned businesses have played in the construction industry both at the local and national level.
“We strongly believe that the approach and actions taken by the Obama Foundation to date, fall short and the results do not reflect the true diversity found in the local design and construction community,” said HACIA Board President Ivan Solis. “Furthermore, they run contrary to what many of us understood the Obama presidency represented, namely; inclusion, fairness, economic empowerment, change and, hope.”
During the press conference, Sandoval said he was disappointed in Obama.
“I am disappointed that my former colleague, Barack Obama, would turn his back on his Latino brothers and sisters in his home state,” said Sandoval, chairman of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus. “On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday week, of all people, he should heed the call of judging our community, not by the color of our skin, but on the content of our character. These hard-working men and women should not be locked out of opportunity to build the historic Obama Presidential Center just because they are Hispanic. The Hispanic community supported the president in his elections. We expect nothing less than his support for our community.”
Villegas, chairman of the Chicago Latino Caucus, echoed Sandoval’s sentiment.
“We would not have an Obama Foundation if 72 percent of the Latino Vote didn’t support him in the election,” Villegas said. “We demand to be involved.”
Perez said he hopes that the Obama Foundation will take a second look at “their flawed outreach and evaluation process” and consider cementing President Obama’s legacy toward Hispanics in a positive light by being inclusive, not dismissive, of their community.