SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — “This bill is pretty much the mission of the Urban Job Task Force,” said Task Force President Deka Dancil.
The Urban Job Task Force advocates for equal access to employment opportunities in the Syracuse community. In March, they published a study on racial equity in the community. Dancil said the study was an effort to prove the racial disparity she sees in Syracuse.
Once the task force had the facts, they sent their report to every elected official they could think of and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wanted to meet. She met with the group several times to discuss legislation she was developing.
Gillibrand, along with Mayor Ben Walsh and state senator Rachael May, announced the “Build Local, Hire Local Act” at JHP Industrial Supply Company today.
“Infrastructure across New York is crumbling and we have to do something about it,” said Gillibrand. “And when we do it is vital that we do it thoughtfully and purposefully in a way that rebuilds our communities that have been left behind by failed federal policy.”
The bill would create a new federal grant program for infrastructure projects that aim to connect communities, like I-81’s community grid option, and reserve half the construction jobs for local residents.
Gillibrand cited the issues caused by the I-81 as one of the inspirations for her bill. Dancil said she has seen the history of I-81’s role in Syracuse’s poverty and racial inequality acknowledged more in recent years but she believes that is not enough.
“I find something very cruel about constantly acknowledging that history without doing every thing we can to ensure justice and right those wrongs,” said Dancil.
When it comes to the jobs that will be created by the construction of I-81, she said they need to include local residents and especially minorities.
“This is not dozens of good paying jobs, this is not hundreds of good paying jobs, this is thousands coming to Syracuse, the 18th poorest city in the nation,” said Dancil.
That’s what the new bill, if passed, would achieve.
“The Senator feels very competent that it will pass within the year and that would be in time for I-81 construction,” said Dancil.
In the interim, she’s encouraging community members to get involved.
“When the New York State Department of Transportation opens up for the public comment period, community members need to show up in person and say they support local jobs for I-81,” said Dancil.