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Politics & Government

Minority Businesses Want Revisions to City Contracting Practices

Tim Stevens Council.JPG

Minority contractors told Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday that the city is not doing enough to give women- and minority-owned businesses equal access to city contract opportunities.

The public hearing stemmed from an August report from City Controller Michael Lamb, which found that Pittsburgh's Equal Opportunity Review Commission (EORC) is failing to report exactly how much city money is paid to "Minority Business Enterprise/Women Business Enterprise" (MBE/WBE) companies.

"There's a lot of companies that really haven't had equal access or shared access to contractual dollars in projects in the city of Pittsburgh," said Rashad Birdsong, Executive Director of the Community Empowerment Association of Homewood. "So, we called for a public hearing for Council to at least be exposed to those recommendations that the Controller's office had."

The Controller's office recommended that Council write a bill to require greater detail from the EORC's annual and quarterly reports, so that the true level of MBE/WBE participation in Pittsburgh could be understood. Since then, Councilman Ricky Burgess has been drafting such legislation.

Birdsong said he's hopeful that the mayoral candidates of 2013 will make this issue a priority in the race.

EORC Manager Phillipe Petite agrees that changes are needed. Petite said he thinks Pittsburgh should review all city expenditures except payroll "to analyze where those contracts are, and find out where minority and women businesses fit in at."

"We have categories of construction and professional services that we may have zero [MBE/WBE participation] in, like bituminous coal mixtures and those types of chemicals or whatever," said Petite. "Very, very low participation, or no one at all."

On November 20, Councilman Burgess will discuss his legislation to create a Department of Equal Opportunity, as well as to revise the EORC and fund a $250,000 "disparity study" in Pittsburgh.