Meeks Backtracks On Comments About Minority Contracts

Updated 9:00 p.m. 12/16/2010

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayoral Candidate James Meeks is clarifying some comments he made about which groups should and should not be included in city minority contract set-aside programs.

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In a radio interview on Wednesday, Meeks – a Democratic state senator and South Side pastor – suggested that women, Latinos and Asians should not be included in programs to boost city contracts against groups that have faced discrimination.

“The word ‘minority’ from our standpoint should mean African-American. I don’t think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title,” he said. “That’s why our numbers cannot improve — because we use women, Asians and Hispanics who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against.”

The Meeks campaign switched into damage-control mode. Meeks backtracked later on Wednesday, saying that Latinos and Asians should be included, but that white women should not.

On Thursday night, at a mayoral candidates forum, Meeks would only tell CBS 2’s Mike Parker that the program “is broken and it has to be fixed.” His handlers quickly hustled him off.

Earlier in the day, campaign spokesman Bryan Zises said Meeks believes businesses owned by white women are not suffering.

“Women have exceeded the goals and set-asides … for women-owned businesses, whereas African-American firms are, again, are constantly declining,” Zises said. “I think, only eight percent, seven percent of contracts when their goal is 25 percent.”

Zises said that Meeks’ point is that the city needs to do a better job of ending fraud that has cheated African-American firms out of city contracts.

Hedy Ratner, co-president of the Women’s Business Development Center, told the Chicago Sun-Times she was “furious” at Meeks for saying women should not be included in the contract set-aside program..

She said that, if anything, the 5 percent set-aside for women “should be higher.”

Paul Cerpa, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) also told the Sun-Times that the federal government has made it clear that the “presumptive group” of those historically discriminated against includes blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native-Americans and “women, regardless of ethnicity.”

Cerpa said it’s “extremely divisive” for Meeks to suggest excluding any of those groups from the city’s contracting set-aside program while running for mayor.

Some of Meeks’ mayoral opponents wasted no time in condemning his earlier remarks.

Candidate Gery Chico called Meeks’ statements “divisive.”

“I don’t want to have that in Chicago. I want to have a united city,” he said.

Candidate Miguel del Valle, the city clerk, offered this understatement: “I think that he probably would have chosen different words when he stated what he stated.”

Rahm Emanuel, the purported front-runner, hasn’t weighed in. Mayor Daley declined to comment.

  • don harris

    meeks is narrow minded racist who believes only African Americans deserve representation

  • Meeks is a Liar

    HAHAHAHAHA Bravo Meeks showing the people of Chicago the idiot that you really are. Go back to Salem with those dupes of women who tithe and turn over their love offerrings to you in the church. That’s the way to go, show the women how little you think of them especially the black women. You are a Moron

  • Dan

    The city doesn’t need to step up Mr. Meeks THE BLACK OWNED BUSINESSES DO! Hundred of millions of dollars in set aside contracts went to minority owned firms I go to networking events all the time and the hispanics, asians, women, and some black owned firms are networking the crowd selling themselves. Never fails there are a few blacks in attendance that gripe out loud about not getting their share. NETWORK! MARKET! SELL! Stop waiting for someone to hand you a freebie! Mr. Meeks you are an embarassment to all the talented black owned firms out there.

  • KC

    He is still better than Rahm

  • Gee-reg

    He is a racist moron and only other racist morons will vote for him.

  • virgil Mathis

    Veteran owned businesses should be the priority set aside contracts

    100% tell our governor about veterans First then say A man

    because we earned it ..

  • Dave

    As a minority latino (latino) I believe that its that kind of narrow minded racist thinking. That makes it harder for all those in the “minority” to get ahead. Stop the hate participate and don’t discriminate. Be true and honest with yourself Mr. Meeks

  • anti meeks

    go pound sand meeks……if a white dude said the same thing jesse and sharpton would be all over it protesting and cbs would be filming it…..shun this man.

  • Centurion

    Meeks is also a MILLIONAIRE. As Minister of the Salem Baptist Church…that has a congregation of 10,000 people..all giving him….a minimum of $1 per week…he has personal income of about $10,000 per week, plus his Senators salary. Oh, the 10K…thats TAX FREE…cause he be a MINISTUH!

    So, Meeks doesn’t want Hispanics, Women or Asians in City Business. HOpefully…women, hispanics and Asians heard this loud and clear…and will not give him that voter support he so desperately needs.

  • liz

    Meeks is a very narrow minded person he wants your vote even if he does not believe in you he preaches against the Gays bur he needs their vote

  • Meeks Withdraws From Mayor’s Race « CBS Chicago – Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traffic, and the Best of Chicago

    […] only blacks should be considered minorities where city minority contract set-asides are concerned. He later backed off from his remarks, saying he was condemning the program’s effectiveness in general, but the political damage […]

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