Black Caucus wins pledge on stadium 23% of contracts for construction work going to minorities

'We've done our job'

Promise is designed to buttress support in critical vote today

March 21, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Working to maintain a fragile pro-stadium coalition, state officials yesterday promised black legislators that a substantial portion of construction work and employment opportunities at a planned downtown football stadium will go to minorities.

Black lawmakers are expected to provide crucial votes when a climactic stadium roll call is taken in the House of Delegates today, and officials at the Maryland Stadium Authority scurried to reassure them that minority businesses will enjoy a healthy share of the stadium proceeds.

While legislators declined to discuss details of the commitments they received from the Stadium Authority, several said they were pleased.

"It's a great deal," said Del. Tony E. Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat. "We've done our job."

Stadium Authority Chairman John A. Moag Jr. said the authority has agreed that minority firms will receive at least 23 percent of the construction work on the stadium roughly the same percentage the authority has awarded to such firms on its two biggest projects, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Baltimore Convention Center expansion.

In both of those projects, black lawmakers had to push to ensure that minority firms received a substantial amount of the work. The Stadium Authority is exempt from the state law that earmarks 14 percent of public works spending for minority-owned contractors.

Mr. Moag also said the authority would work to make sure that a substantial portion of the concession business and jobs at the football stadium are held by minorities.

"I think the Black Caucus understands we have a very strong record," Mr. Moag said.

Stadium supporters predicted that the project would win approval albeit it by a narrow margin when it comes up for the vote in the House today.

Leaders of pro-stadium forces said they can count on between 75 and 80 delegates when the vote is cast, only a handful more than the 71 needed for approval.

With the outcome still in doubt, opponents were urging members to resist "taking a walk" avoiding a difficult vote by leaving the House floor. Some delegates might be tempted to abstain to avoid angering constituents or alienating the pro-stadium House leadership.

"You can't hide. An issue like this is just too visible," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Hagerstown Democrat and one of the leading opponents.

The key votes for the Baltimore project and the Landover stadium for the Washington Redskins will come when the House considers the state budget for the next fiscal year.

The two stadiums have survived half of the legislative process, having won approval from the state Senate last week.

Black legislators from Baltimore began pressing for the commitment on minority participation a week ago, after Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke signed a memorandum in which he agreed that at least 25 percent of the work on his privately financed facility will go to minority firms.

"One of the things that was striking was Jack Kent Cooke's commitment to the minority business community," said Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and the Maryland legislative Black Caucus' point person on the stadiums issue.

Mr. Fulton said he and other members of the Black Caucus saw the downtown stadium as a way to win needed jobs for their constituents both during construction and once the facility is operating.

"If we let a deal like this go by without getting a piece of the action, they should clean us all out of here," Mr. Fulton. "If they can't give us a commitment, we can't commit to the project."

In a last-minute piece of lobbying, legislative leaders yesterday released letters of support for the Baltimore stadium project from three former governors William Donald Schaefer, Harry Hughes and Marvin Mandel.

Mr. Schaefer's letter backed away from his comments of last month, when he criticized the state for giving Baltimore team owner Art Modell too rich a deal to entice his move from Cleveland.

"Now that Mr. Modell has agreed to modify the agreement, which he did not have to do, I fully support the effort," Mr. Schaefer wrote.

Mr. Modell has agreed to kick in $24 million to the cost of the stadium over an unspecified period of up to 30 years.

Pub Date: 3/21/96

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