Edge for minority bids gets backing

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At a cost of more than half a million dollars, the Augusta Commission has what it needs to restart an affirmative action program for hiring city contractors.

The commission heard a report Tuesday by White Plains, N.Y.-based NERA Economic Consulting, hired in 2007 for $586,265 to compile data on discrimination so the city, if challenged in federal court, can justify giving preference to minority-owned businesses.

NERA Vice President Jon Wainwright and attorney Colette Holt told commissioners that inequalities have persisted not only in the private sector but also in the city's procurement practices, even when the old Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program was in place.

The firm analyzed contracts awarded between 2003-07 and found businesses owned by white men were five times more likely to submit winning bids. Minority- and women-owned firms made up 35 percent of available businesses, the study said, but were hired only about 7 percent of the time.

They also have a harder time securing loans, are likely to pay higher interest rates, can be charged higher prices for supplies and are shut out of industry networks grounded in churches and country clubs, NERA reported.

The study was based on market research, census data, surveys and focus groups.

"Based on what we're seeing," Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason said after the presentation, "there's clearly compelling evidence that we're in need of a program."

Later, the commission voted unanimously to have City Administrator Fred Russell apply NERA's recommendations to the building of a new marshal's office substation off Deans Bridge Road, which will serve as a test run for a new affirmative action program.

The city's old program was halted after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional in 2007, a decision that arose out of a lawsuit filed by Thompson Building Wrecking Co. after its bid to demolish the Telfair Street candy factory was rejected by the city over a technicality.

The judge said the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program was based on old data -- a disparity study from 1994.

The city spent thousands of dollars defending the program even though the city attorney had told the commission a year earlier that it could be successfully challenged because the study was old. The city had already begun the process for a new disparity study.

Since the affirmative action program was suspended, the city has still employed a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise coordinator, but her job has been to help local small businesses in the bidding process, not minority businesses explicitly.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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wildman
1119
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wildman 09/16/09 - 04:13 am
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Contracts are awarded based

Contracts are awarded based on race and gender not quality of work, another reason you will get a less than adequate product? Just a thought!

southern2
6118
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southern2 09/16/09 - 06:11 am
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"businesses owned by white

"businesses owned by white men were five times more likely to submit winning bids. " Get it...it's called submit winning bids. Why do these white men have to lose jobs because they have the wrong skin color or gender. Clearly reverse discrimination.

southern2
6118
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southern2 09/16/09 - 06:13 am
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More money well wasted!

More money well wasted!

justus4
101
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justus4 09/16/09 - 07:20 am
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Its the judicial system that
Unpublished

Its the judicial system that is biased and overturn the original intent of the programs. The judicial system needs the exact kind of affirmative action plan because thats where "they" are corrupting progress. Non-minorities are not on these benches due to horrible racial history and their beliefs have not changed, so the courts are resisting progress. The numbers alone demonstrate the disparaties, but non-minorities judges charged with making rulings will always revert back to EMPATHY for the same people who are getting ALL the contracts. A vicious circle by design, much like U know what. A great country, eh?

southern2
6118
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southern2 09/16/09 - 07:25 am
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I thought whites were the

I thought whites were the minority in Richmond County.

Sweet son
10365
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Sweet son 09/16/09 - 07:43 am
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More entitlements,

More entitlements, set-asides, etc. The list is endless.

RoadkiII
6596
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RoadkiII 09/16/09 - 08:28 am
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If you want the work, submit

If you want the work, submit the lowest bid. Speaking as a former business owner. That's the way I did it.

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 09/16/09 - 09:27 am
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I am opposed to awarding

I am opposed to awarding contracts based on the color of one's skin.

corgimom
32219
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corgimom 09/16/09 - 09:30 am
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0
$500,000??? Why didn't they

$500,000??? Why didn't they get grad students from ASU to do it for free? One half of a million dollars. Am I the only one that thinks this is obscene?

disssman
6
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disssman 09/16/09 - 11:08 am
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0
This action will assure that

This action will assure that work performed is of the highest quality and the lowest price for taxpayers. Won't it?

disssman
6
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disssman 09/16/09 - 11:10 am
0
0
I wonder if the same

I wonder if the same commission that dosen't want to fund a TEE Hee center consultant for a debate, approved this expenditure?

77777
0
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77777 09/16/09 - 11:40 am
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NO ONE should be held back,

NO ONE should be held back, or given an advantage based on race, color, religious background, etc. Getting a job or awarded a service contract should be based on several factors such as, cost, quality, and time to delivery, but nothing else. How is giving an advantage to minorities not racism?

thankgodforaugusta
0
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thankgodforaugusta 09/16/09 - 01:03 pm
0
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heres an idea give the job to

heres an idea give the job to the qualified firm who will do it for the least amount of money be they green yellow or orange

Doyougetitnow
4
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Doyougetitnow 09/16/09 - 05:21 pm
0
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Here comes another lawsuit.

Here comes another lawsuit. You can see this one a mile away. AA was deemed unconstitutional by the SCOTUS years ago. And the commission (oops, tax payers) payed a mere half million to get slammed.

proud2bamerican
441
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proud2bamerican 09/16/09 - 10:14 pm
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Agree "77777"!!! "At a cost

Agree "77777"!!! "At a cost of more than half a million dollars..." We have money to throw around so we can tell the private sector how and who they have to hire?? Regardless of experience, job history, performance, etc.?! NO ONE benefits in the long run except the ones who were given over $500K to do the "research". So WHO is going to stop this unconstitutional expenditure?? Someone tell us what to do besides complain!

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