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Portland City Council mandates minority input on city contracts

By Janie Har, The Oregonian | December 16, 2009, 5:27PM

 

The Portland City Council today mandated that bureaus consult at least one person of color when evaluating and awarding city contracts.

The vote was unanimous despite the controversial nature of the requirement, as well as the misgivings of some minority consultants. All five commissioners voted for the resolution, buoyed by testimony from an audience that included African Americans and Native Americans.

"This isn't a cure-all for anything, but at least we will have a place at the table," said entrepreneur Roy Jay, who pitched the idea to City Commissioner Randy Leonard. "This is 25 years past due."

Current rules call for city bureaus to convene a panel of at least three people to evaluate contract bids. At least one of the three must be from the private sector.

Under the new requirement, at least one of the three must be someone from a qualified pool vetted by the Alliance of Minority Chambers, which Jay formed in 2003. The number of minority experts on the evaluating panel increases as the overall number of people on the committee increases.

But at least one person testifying, Faye Burch, urged caution. Burch, with the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon, said it would have been better for the city to tap into existing organizations for minority engineers, lawyers or other professionals.

"I certainly think it's important to have diversity at all levels and we support that, but I wasn't involved, our organization and our members were not involved in the early writing of this," she said.

Burch's organization will work with Jay's group. The resolution also calls for input from others, such as the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs.

The city has tried in years to maximize contracting opportunities for businesses owned by minorities, women and small-scale entrepreneurs.

In 2007-08, the city let out more than 100 construction contracts valued at more than $90 million. Minority-owned businesses received about $81,000, women-owned businesses about $900,000 and emerging small businesses about $2.3 million.

Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams introduced the resolution. The mayor added an amendment calling for the alliance to provide regular updates on its meetings and selection process.

Multnomah County also asks its departments to seat minorities and people who don't work for the county on procurement panels, if possible. Departments must document efforts they made to get such people.




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