Metro Accused of Not Hiring Local Contractors

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee accused Metro of not being sensitive in creating local jobs. The Chairman of the Transit agency was there to answer the charges. Pat Hernandez has the story.
The Democratic lawmaker held a press conference in front of Metro Headquarters. She accused a major contractor hired by the transit agency of rejecting local small business and community contractors and stifling opportunities.

"The contractors that they have given the fiduciary duty to Metro to hire do not care about anybody in this community. They're not interested in reaching out to our small businesses. They're not interested in creating jobs. They're interested in their own self-serving attitude about getting my friends to work for me, the ones that I've already done business with."

Congresswoman Jackson-Lee requested an emergency meeting with Metro Chairman David Wolff and the contractors hired...calling on them to detail the measures being taking in hiring local contractors on transit projects. Chairman Wolff was there at the conference and couldn't wait for the meeting.

"You are welcome here, we love you."
Jackson-Lee: " Thank You."
Wolff: "And you've been a good friend of Metro."
Jackson-Lee: "Thank you."
Wolff: "And any criticism that you have, you know that I always return your phone calls. You've not called me about this...I'm disappointed about that.  We could have avoided something if you had the information."
Jackson-Lee: "My cup runneth over."
Wolff: "Okay."
Jackson-Lee: "I appreciate it Mr. Chairman."

She said she would call for a federal investigation to determine whether Metro contractors were meeting their small business commitment. Wolff showed the Congresswoman evidence of that.

"You mentioned 30-percent was the national goal. We exceeded it. We share your goal."

Jackson-Lee: "I said that was the ceiling we aspire to be higher."

Wolff: "Well, we're higher, we're with you, we're not against you. 35.3-percent were awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses. And let me talk about this ethnically, because this is not just small and disadvantaged businesses. 35-percent of those went to Caucasians, 30-percent to Hispanics, 20-percent to Blacks, 15-percent to Asians and 1-percent to Indians. We believe in diversity. We believe in opportunity. We put our money where our mouth is."

image of Metro Chairman David Wolff and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee

Congresswoman Jackson-Lee said she had no quarrel with Chairman Wolff and Metro.

"The record of Metro I will not challenge and take issue with as we go forward. The existing contractors don't get it and, in the climate of bail outs, they need to get it. Maybe this will help you help them get it."

Wolff: "Well, we will make sure they do. We will make the CEOs of the two firms available to meet with you. We have been committed to this. We put our money where our mouth is. We will continue to do it, and we love you being here today."

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...