Construction School Could Build Opportunity

May 14, 2021 – Well, it seems like a good idea on the surface. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced plans to build an inner city construction school that includes a working concrete and asphalt plant. The project would be built around East 79th Street along the “Opportunity Corridor” that connects Interstates 490 and 77 to University Circle. The school would include a 1.4 acre concrete plant and a 1.5-acre asphalt plant. But former and possibly future mayor Dennis Kucinich called the plan “an environmental and health disaster for predominantly black Cleveland neighborhoods and the adjacent suburbs of Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Beachwood and beyond. There is a particular cruelty in asking people of color in areas of high unemployment to take a trade-off in health for alleged economic opportunity . . . . asphalt plant emissions, in an urban area will bring increased levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde, nickel, cadmium and benzene, within a two-mile radius, with pollution slowly dissipating over the next few miles depending on several factors, such as the height of the asphalt plant stack, the volume of asphalt produced, the wind direction and velocity.” The city responded, “The curriculum is focused on training residents – in particular, city young adults in and around the Opportunity Corridor – the skills that are needed to get into the construction industry. It is our belief that the project’s vision to build a more inclusive workforce in Cleveland is entirely keeping with the vision for Opportunity Corridor.” In my opinion, a construction school that includes a working concrete and asphalt plant is a great idea. They ought to work together to find a way to make it happen.

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