Local businesses underrepresented in city contract awards

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By Rebecca Bowe

At Monday’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing, Human Rights Commission Executive Director Chris Iglesias reported on how many locally owned San Francisco businesses benefit from city-issued contracts. The Guardian spotlighted this issue recently.

Across the board, the data showed, most city contracts are awarded to outside firms. (One speaker referred to them as “the Halliburtons of the world.”) The number of prime contracts and subcontracts awarded to non-local businesses was disproportionately higher than those awarded to local businesses, minority-owned businesses, or women-owned businesses, the data showed. Between September of 2006 and December of 2008, Iglesias noted, 35 percent of all city contracts went to certified local business enterprises.

In terms of city departments, Public Works led the way by awarding some 48 percent of its contracts to local firms. The airport issued just 10 percent of its contracts to local businesses, the port contributed 22 percent, and the Public Utilities Commission awarded 34 percent. Citywide, just 9 percent of term-contract awards and 7 percent of blanket-purchase orders were made through local firms.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who formerly served on the city’s Small Business Commission, was less than thrilled by the findings.

“This is very troubling data to me,” he noted, and went on to say that if the city made a more concerted effort to invest in local, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, the effect “could act as our own local economic stimulus plan.”

The Administrative Code requires the HRC to submit regular reports to the Board of Supervisors regarding the city’s progress in making contracts available to locally owned, minority-owned or women-owned businesses as a means of preventing discrimination. Despite the rule, today marked the first time in two and a half years that data was reported. Iglesias called it a “revitalization of this reporting process” and committed to issuing reports in a timely manner from now on.

For his part, Chiu regarded the data as a road map for the work that lies ahead. “We have within our power the ability to invest locally,” he said, “and we are not doing that.”

Comments

Rebecca,

Who has the control over handing out city contracts?

Posted by Matt Stewart on May. 12, 2009 @ 6:17 am

Thanks very much for reporting this, Rebecca. Black contractors have been locked out of construction in SF since 1998 - and Black workers too, because they're rarely hired by non-Black contractors, union or not. Now Willie Ratcliff, who's not only publisher of the SF Bay View but head of the African American Contractors of SF, which used to be very active and put food on a lot of tables, is putting his all into breaking the blockade so that Blacks can compete for a fair share of stimulus funded projects. On Thursday, May 14, 4 p.m., at 440 Turk, he'll be leading the charge at the meeting of the Housing Authority Commission, which has put the first of those projects out to bid.

Have you looked into compliance with the Local Hire Ordinance that Terence Hallinan championed when he was Supervisor? At that time, the Human Rights Commission was assigned to enforce its mandate of at least 50 percent San Francisco residents on all City-funded construction. Now the HRC says they never heard of the Local Hire Ordinance. Think what a difference local hire could make: The billions the City spends every year on construction could put thousands of San Franciscans to work at high paying blue and green collar jobs.

Mary Ratcliff

Posted by Mary Ratcliff on May. 12, 2009 @ 5:06 pm