High speed rail confrenceSPRINGFIELD –A commission tasked with reviewing Springfield’s 10th Street Rail Corridor project, increase transparency and ensure accountability over minority hiring received final approval from state lawmakers Thursday.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) spearheaded this effort along with the Faith Coalition for the Common Good.

Manar and Scherer credited citizen participation for the legislation. The concept began with a suggestion that was made at a town hall meeting last year on the east side of Springfield.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the workers and businesses benefiting from this project represent the neighborhoods impacted by the construction. This commission will be a public, centralized group that reviews and reports if existing state and federal minority participation goals are met,” Manar said.

“Local workers need opportunities for local employment, and there needs to be a light shined on the process to make sure this happens,” Scherer said. “I appreciate the hard work and collaboration of so many local leaders, including the Faith Coalition and NAACP, who were instrumental in this proposal and behind the goal of insisting on transparency and accountability as high speed rail is realized.”

“This is a good step to bring the community together, provide accountability and ensure a successful 10th Street Rail Project. I look forward to working with all the parties involved,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said.

“This legislation is very important for the full implementation of the Faith Coalition for the Common Goods Rail Community Benefits Agreement. The Advisory Commission will be composed of residents most affected by the rail project. They will monitor, review, and report on contracting and employment matters related to the planning, organization and construction of the Springfield rail project,” said Leroy Jordan, co-chair of FCCG’s Rail Task Force.

“People of color in this community have been disenfranchised for too long. It is imperative that minority participation take place with the high-speed rail project. People who live in the neighborhoods directly impacted by the high-speed rail project should be trained and hired to work. After all, the NAACP was started because of events like the 1908 Race Riots and decades of continued discriminatory hiring practice throughout Springfield,” said Teresa Haley, Springfield NAACP President.

The bipartisan High-Speed Rail Oversight Commission will be made up of Springfield residents appointed by legislative leaders, the governor, the mayor of Springfield and the Sangamon County state's attorney. At minimum it must meet quarterly and issue an annual report.

The legislation, House Bill 3765, received bipartisan approval from the House on Thursday and the Senate in May. It now requires the governor’s signature to become law.

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