- After a contentious election season, the city of Crystal Lake, Illinois, is revamping the language in its contracts to prevent independent contractors that perform work for the city to display political flags, signs and other messaging, an issue that was brought to the attention of the city council during a public meeting last month.
- The city received “voluminous” phone and email complaints regarding the Trump 2020 flags displayed on heavy equipment while the contractor was performing work for the city. No one mentioned the name of the contractor during the meeting but, according to the Northwest Herald, it was Crystal Lake-based asphalt paving company Geske and Sons.
- Attorney Victor Filippini Jr., special counsel for the city of Crystal Lake, said during the meeting that the city is drafting new contract language that will prevent contractors from engaging in political activity under future contracts, but, until then, such actions are considered political speech and are protected under the First Amendment.
Under Illinois’ prohibited political activity law, state employees cannot use state property or resources to engage in political activity benefiting a political campaign or organization. However, Filippini said, this does not apply to independent contractors for a governmental unit.
The new contract language will specify that contractors working with the city cannot have advertising signs for political candidates, campaigns or commercial ventures, he added.
The dust-up around political signage in Crystal Lake is just one example of how the construction industry and its jobsites have not been exempt from the political and social upheavals that the country has seen this year.
Contractors have been front and center at the U.S. southern border wrapping up almost 400 miles of wall construction, although that work could come to an end under a new administration led by the projected winner of this year's presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president-elect has vowed to stop the construction of new barriers, instead opting for high-tech alternatives like drones. In that scenario, contractors would have no choice but to pack up and walk away, likely under a termination for convenience, with their costs paid and perhaps a small sum for profit depending on their contracts.
Some jobsites were also threatened by riots and protests this summer in many U.S. cities after high-profile deaths at the hand of police put a spotlight on racial injustice. However, nothing has shaken the industry quite like the discovery of nooses and biased graffiti on construction sites. Construction Dive readers weighed in about these incidents and said this is nothing new, but this year, contractors and owners were compelled to take decisive action in response.
Turner Construction Co., for example, shut down projects while their employees and subcontractor crews completed anti-bias training. At jobsites in Florida, Baltimore and Portland, Oregon, law enforcement got involved and launched investigations into the appearance of nooses and other racist symbols. Canadian contractor EllisDon has responded to racially driven incidents on its jobsites with a $50,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.