CHICAGO - The 13-member Commonwealth Edison Co. board of directors Thursday
approved a new 29-year franchise agreement with Chicago after the City Council
removed a strict affirmative action requirement, the company announced.
After more than two years of negotiations with the city, the board
unanimously approved the agreement, which calls for the electric utility to pay
the city $74 million per year until the year 2020, starting Jan. 1.
The company's approval came a day after Chicago aldermen, by the minimum 26
votes necessary, killed an amendment to the agreement that would have forced
ComEd to give 25 percent of its business to minority-owned firms and 5 percent
to firms owned by women.
The ComEd board said Dec. 5 that it would refuse to sign any franchise that
required it to meet specific affirmative action goals.
Under a long-standing Illinois Commerce Commission ruling, about 70 percent
of the franchise fee paid to Chicago, or about $50 million, comes from suburban
In a statement Thursday, the company defended its performance, saying it had
bought more than $60 million in goods and services from minority businesses in
1991, a 239 percent increase over five years ago. The total expenditure for
1991 was $1.3 billion.
ComEd Board Chairman James O'Connor also said Mayor Richard Daley's
administration and the utility, which has a monopoly on providing electricity
to city residents, "devoted five pages of the new franchise to spell out the
company's efforts to increase its equal employment (and) affirmative action
results," including urging general contractors to seek minority subcontractors.
That didn't satisfy 5th Ward Alderman Lawrence Bloom, who sponsored the
amendment that would have required ComEd to adhere to the city's minority
Bloom accused Daley of caving in to the powerful ComEd interests, but he
also conceded in a Chicago radio interview that his amendment was "a vehicle to
get the mayor back to the bargaining table" to seek a variety of concessions
Daley, in a separate interview, criticized aldermen who accused his
supporters on the ComEd franchise of being racists.
Those aldermen were using the affirmative action amendment as a cynical
political ploy, he said.
John Hogan, ComEd's press spokesman, noted that the utility lowered its
monthly customer charge this summer for single-family and multi-unit dwellings.
The new franchise also commits ComEd to invest $1 billion in service
improvements during the next 10 years, to place underground a portion of a
high-voltage transmission line from south suburban Burnham to the south end of
Chicago's Loop and to give status reports to the City Council every five years.
- Times staff writer Sandra Guy contributed to this