As I read the article in the Metro section titled “Budget options up for debate” and “City often relies on reserve funds” (Nov. 2), it bothered me that the city has a budget shortfall but continues to fund a study valued at $675,000. This particular study in the budget addresses racial and gender disparities in Augusta’s awarding of contracts.
Out of curiosity, I went to the Augusta city government website and found a city department named Disadvantaged Business Enterprise that lists a disparity study conducted by NERA Economic Consulting of Austin, Texas, dated Sept. 4, 2009. The first report is the 323-page final report containing all the analysis and statistics of the 2009 study, and the second report is the final recommendations. The report’s final conclusion was that minority- and women-owned companies are underrepresented in Augusta and Richmond County contract awards, and it appears that discrimination is the major cause according to NERA’s statistical and analysis models.
What is most disturbing about this 2009 study is that the Augusta Disadvantaged Business Enterprise department was created and has implemented most of the recommendations provided. What is the purpose of a new racial and gender disparities in Augusta study costing $675,000?
I recommend that City Administrator Fred Russell and all the Augusta Commission members study and understand the Augusta city government website; read the past studies that are paid for and completed; and come to a consensus that disparity initiatives are already in place – rightly so – in Augusta to fight discrimination against African-Americans and women in city contracts before budgeting another $675,000 in taxpayer money to study it again.