By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee modified a proposal this week to help local and minority contractors win construction contract bids with the city after learning the program as staff was implementing it may have been guilty of the same problem it was supposed to solve.
District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposed Revolving Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP) would allow the city set up a multiple-contractor insurance program specifically designed to be affordable for small local contractors and subcontractors bidding on large City of Oakland projects such as the Army Base Development.
Small contractors can normally be shut out of such large projects because they aren’t able to afford the insurance needed to bid on single jobs in a large project.
Council is looking to create the OCIP program in time for small local firms to utilizing it in bidding for Oakland Army Base Development contracts this summer.
But Brooks came to the meeting of the CED Committee this week to complain that contrary to her original proposal, which called for an open bid to select the administrator of Oakland’s proposed OCIP, city staff had already moved forward with modifications to the proposal that favored the selection of insurance giant Alliant Insurance Services of Newport Beach as the project administrator, potentially freezing out small local firms from competing for the job.
Brooks complained that city staff members were working with Alliant under an existing city insurance contract through a consortium of California counties to develop the OCIP while allowing Alliant to turn around and bid for the contract to administer the very program it was designing, a point that was taken up by District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
“I would somehow want to place firewalls between their role in some kind of [program development] capacity versus their ability to compete for the work,” McElhaney said.
“In some ways, if somebody is scoping the work, they can write it so that it benefits them, and not really be truly open to the qualifications of competing firms.”
But Brooks’ main point was to ensure the program did not end up being exclusionary in its administration.
“The whole purpose of an OCIP program is to be inclusionary,” Brooks said. “But the very firm that we are working with to develop this inclusionary program—from its board of directors down through its top management—doesn’t look like it has a lot of inclusion.
“When you look at their management team, it is all white males with the exception of one female. When you look at their Board of Directors it is all white males. And so here we’re talking about an inclusionary program and we’re not even looking at the organization we’re using to design this program to ensure that they have the cultural competency to deal in our community.”
With District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf abstaining, committee members voted to direct staff to put the development of the OCIP program up to bid rather than leaving it in Alliant’s hands to create.
The matter goes to the full City Council next Tuesday for consideration