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Sunday, Jul 21, 2024

Government Panel pushes for equity in city contracts

Companies owned by minorities, females and disabled veterans received less than 4 percent of the $79.8 million awarded by the city of San Diego for construction work in the last six months of 2000.

The figures, recently released by the city’s Equal Opportunity Contracting Program, show an apparent imbalance in the allocation of city contracting dollars , an inequity some say has existed for years and will not change overnight.

The council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee unanimously voted to draft an action plan that would change such disparities.

The committee said the city needs to do a better job of informing minority and female-owned business of available city contracts and should expand its mentoring program to assist these companies.

The city may also eliminate some aspects of its current bid process if the recommendations are approved by the full City Council. The city currently favors contractors with the lowest bids. But testimony before the committee indicated that system doesn’t always work.

Jose Mireles of the Latino Builders Association said last year a woman who owns a local security company followed the proper procedures and put in the lowest bid for a city project, but was not awarded the contract.

“I don’t know how these decisions are made, but it creates serious problems for us,” Mireles said. “We need to do more than make recommendations; we need to have some accountability.”

Latino-owned companies received $2.6 million worth of the city contracts, or 3.3 percent, according to the program’s statistics for 2000. It also revealed African-American-owned companies received $24,000, or .03 percent, of the city’s work.

Mireles’ view was similar to that of Ricky Laster, president of the Multi-Cultural Contractors Consulting Group.

Laster said his group agrees with the recommendations, but said the city needs to take a step further than planning summits and mixers.

“I’m saying the city needs to get out of the box,” Laster said. “People are not for that anymore. The city needs to take a look at the other projects going on around the city that are successful.”

Laster said minority-owned businesses have had success winning work on projects like Market Creek Plaza at Market and Euclid streets, and the College Grove Center. Work has also been garnered on the recently unveiled City Heights Urban Village to minority contractors.

Laster said the problem is not that minority contractors don’t exist in the city and therefore don’t submit bids, as the city indicated.

Instead, he said the problem is minority contractors don’t have a comfort level of working with the city, or the consciousness that they will be awarded city work.

“No one has really had an opportunity to work with the city in the last 10 years,” Laster said. “The comfort level is lacking because of past experiences. I believe relationship-building has to take place before things change.”

The latest figures are down from the preceding six months, which show minority and female-owned firms received 8.8 percent of $88.8 million of city construction projects.

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