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Thursday, July 19, 2007


'Ex-Aldermen Crash College Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Mayor Richard Daley has officiated at scores of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings since he became mayor in 1989, most of them prosaic and forgettable affairs.

But a ceremony Wednesday at the new Kennedy-King College promises to be scorched permanently onto the mayor's mental hard drive after two angry ex-aldermen crashed the party in the midst of the congratulatory speechifying.

"Didn't even get an invitation to come!" exclaimed Shirley Coleman, interrupting the speech of a City Colleges of Chicago official as she took a vacant seat on the stage a few spots down from the mayor. "Just found out 10 minutes ago!"

From behind dark glasses Coleman fixed a steady glare that appeared aimed Daley's way as she was joined onstage by former Ald. Arenda Troutman, who took the seat next to hers. The mayor looked straight ahead.

When they represented the adjacent 16th and 20th Wards, respectively, Coleman and Troutman were involved in planning for the long-awaited $254 million college at 63rd and Halsted Streets. In 2003, they used a parliamentary maneuver to delay consideration of a zoning change, complaining that not enough of the construction work would be going to African-American firms.

Though she had Daley's support, Coleman was defeated in her re-election bid earlier this year by challenger JoAnn Thompson. Troutman lost to Willie Cochran after her indictment on federal corruption charges.

Officials who spoke Wednesday before the arrivals of the two former aldermen boasted that 174 workers from the neighborhoods around the new six-building campus had worked on the project and that about $90 million in contracts went to minority firms.

"It can be done," Daley said of the minority participation in remarks delivered before Coleman and Troutman invaded the stage. "Remember that. It can be done on every project, public or private."

Daley did not mention either of the former aldermen in his speech.

Montel Gayles, executive director of the public building commissioner, which oversaw construction of the $254 million project, sought to smooth ruffled feathers.

"We believe we sent you an invitation," he said to Coleman and Troutman as he stood on the stage near them. "Whether we sent it or not from my heart I apologize for you not receiving one, but we would not be here today if it wasn't for the work these two aldermen put forth. With no hard feelings and no regret, I am glad they are here. I am glad that they are here to share with us the success of this day. Now with that said, let's move on with our program."

The two women were not mollified.

After "all of the tears and years of planning and communicating with the community," the slight was "a complete insult," Coleman told reporters after the ceremony. "This college would not have been here but for us. We stopped the project, made the mayor mad at us to get minority participation."

Troutman -- who appeared in court Wednesday morning as she fights an 18-count indictment for bribery, extortion, mail fraud and tax evasion -- said she got a call from her sister, who had been informed by a community resident of the ribbon cutting.

"I came down from the federal building," said Troutman, who called the alleged lack of an invitation a "slap in the face."

About five people in the crowd earlier displayed signs thanking Troutman for her help with the project.

She was unable to explain how her supporters knew of the ribbon cutting when she didn't.

"Obviously, people still believe in me," she said. "People love me, I guess."

Daley later insisted that invitations had been sent to both women.'