Activist pushes D.C. to get contractors to hire city workers for construction projects

A program to get District residents working is not being fully enforced. With a 9.9 percent unemployment rate, there are now calls for the city government to be more vigilant about enforcing requirements for contractors to hire city workers.

Northeast D.C. activist Kathy Henderson showed up at construction sites Tuesday questioning whether they were complying with the 51 percent rule.

"Just show me how many District residents are on this project and we're gone..." she said.

A foreman replied, "Right now, you're disrupting my work..."

Yet, D.C. construction workers like William Backus say it got them hired.

"Thank you for your vigilance. We definitely need that. It's a lot of construction going on," said Backus.

At a project near the Rhode Island Metro, Buzutto Construction told us they've hired seven new people who are all D.C. residents. Most of them are from the Ward 5 neighborhood, but a D.C. auditor's report of past city financed projects found: "Only 4 of 16 projects met or exceeded the goal of hiring 51% D.C. residents."

The report adds that on those projects, "residents lost potential job revenue of more than 14 million dollars."

The projects in the report that failed included new DC-USA shopping center in Columbia Heights or this facility called Valley Heights that hired zero D.C. workers.

"Unfortunately, the administration had not strengthened up that arm," said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas.

Council member Harry Thomas blamed Mayor Adrian Fenty for lack of enforcement, but in Ward 5 Kathy Henderson, who's running as an independent for council against Thomas, is blaming him.

"We have city financed projects and District residents are not being hired and I have a problem with that," said Henderson.

Thomas said, "We've had a complete plan and we're implying and I'm very confident with in the next 18 months you will see a bigger turn around with that's going on with those jobs on site."

Thomas insists that projects in his Ward 5 are all in compliance. The D.C. auditor's report suggests that if hundreds if not thousands more D.C. residents would be working if the city actually enforced its rules. At this point, they are not doing that.

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