Urban League Still Big Tunnel Fans

By Josh Feit March 4, 2011

Per this morning's follow-up-themed Fizz, I've got another extra footnote. One thing I asked acting Urban League interim director Tony Benjamin, now that outspoken tunnel advocate James Kelly is gone, was whether the league was still committed to supporting the project, which social justice advocates and low-income advocates like Real Change oppose because the possibility that cost overruns could hit the city's budget.

The short answer is yes, the league still supports it.

The longer answer is this. Benjamin told me:
A priority for us is economic development. There's 10 percent unmeployment—and double that in the African American community. So our focus is how can we move this project forward so we can strengthen our local and regional economy. If we can't put people to work, we would be failing in our [the Urban League's] mission.

I didn't ask Benjamin, though, if he'll be sporting the "Enough" lapel pin that I saw Kelly wearing last fall. (The pin is a local labor pin printed up to protest Mayor McGinn's apparent obstructionism.)

On Wednesday, we reported that the Urban League has a three year contract with the Washington Department of Transportation (which is overseeing the tunnel project) to help minority, women-owned, and small businesses get WSDOT contracts. They have been paid $520,000 for work in 2009 and 2010.

WSDOT tells us they are happy with the Urban League, saying the league has, indeed, helped land WSDOT contracts for minority-owned businesses. (Obviously, there has been some controversy about Urban League's contracts in the news this week—which is why we looked into it in the first place.)
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