More than one month after former President Barack Obama said he would not sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for his multi million dollar presidential center and library, the Obama Foundation on Friday, September 29 announced plans to hire a diversity consultant for the $500 million project.
Foundation officials hope the move will silence critics and activists, who for months have held meetings and campaigns asking for a CBA to ensure that Woodlawn and South Shore residents will benefit from the construction and operation of the presidential library which will be located between 60th and 63rd Streets in Jackson Park. Jobs are a big concern among residents, who demand more transparency and participation in the project. Many are concerned that minorities, particularly Blacks, will not be adequately represented at the presidential center.
Foundation officials hope a diversity consultant will address those concerns. They are seeking interested individuals and firms to apply for the role of Diversity Consultant for the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). The diversity consultant will formulate, monitor and enforce the Construction Manager (CM)’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan. The plan will set out the commitments and other strategies related to diverse and local contracting, and the hiring of local residents and other underrepresented communities to be part of the OPC construction workforce. Obama Foundation officials say they have made such contracting and workforce participation a priority of the development of the OPC.
“President and Mrs. Obama have said the Obama Foundation belongs to the South Side community as much as it does to them. Today’s RFP is a reflection of our desire to make our new neighbors a part of this historic project. We will look for the best talent across the South Side, hiring diverse businesses and individuals to help build a world-class institution,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation.
“Among the core values of the Obama Foundation is a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Diversity Consultant will be integral in holding us accountable and ensuring we accomplish our aggressive goals for hiring local, diverse talent,” said Robbin Cohen, Executive Director of the Obama Foundation. “The Diversity Consultant will help us ensure that our commitment to diversity is embedded in our work at each step of the way in this historic project.”
Obama Foundation officials require its diversity consultant to demonstrate a verifiable record of implementing transparent and significant diversity and inclusion programs and an ability to support the CM in its obligations to meet, and hopefully exceed, the Foundation’s award of 50 percent or more of construction contracts and subcontracts to “diverse suppliers,” including 35 percent of contracts and subcontracts to minority business enterprises (MBEs). Additional “diverse suppliers” eligible for the Foundation’s contracts and sub-contracts include women business enterprises (WBEs), businesses owned by veterans, people with disabilities, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ. In addition, Foundation officials said the diversity consultant should have a history of working with unions and engaging with underemployed populations, including ex-offenders and youth to increase the pipeline of talent. The Obama Foundation will be accepting applications until October 13, 2017. An announcement on the Diversity Consultant will come later this fall.