US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recently approved a waiver of U.S. Department of Transportation regulations to allow the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to provide group-specific race-conscious Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contract goals for firms owned and controlled by African Americans and women.
This ruling was in response to the lack of participation of African American and women-owned businesses on SFMTA projects, such as the $1.5 billion Central Subway Project currently under construction in San Francisco.
The participation for each of these two groups as cited in the SFMTA Disparity Study is less than ½ of 1 percent of the project construction cost. In a letter to SFMTA, the Federal Transit Authority Office of Civil Rights in Washington, DC indicated that this was unacceptable and that SFMTA must find a way to correct such disparities.
While gender and race conscious goals are not allowed on state funded contracts in California since the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, no matter what the disparity might be for any group, projects with federal funding are not affected by this state law.
The passage of Prop.209 banned affirmative action resulting in the demise of an estimated 80 percent of Black contracting firms in California within three years.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee supported the efforts of SFMTA and the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce to improve conditions.
“I am pleased by the commitment from federal government and local partners to ensure that vendors reflect the diversity of our nation and the workforce at large,” she said. “As a former federal contractor myself, I understand the challenges that many women and African American business owners face. This decision is a critical step to address the disparities in federal contracting.”
SFMTA will hold a public hearing as required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement the new goals on the upcoming $200 million Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project in San Francisco.
According to Fred Jordan, president of the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, “We are most encouraged to bid now that the US DOT has taken the initiative within its own regulation to bring about parity for all.
“If SFMTA can do it, all of the other government agencies that receive federal funds can do it. Sadly, there is no known major agency in California receiving federal funds that has African American business participation over 1 percent.”
“This is a game changer for African American and women-owned businesses,” said Jordan.
For more information, contact Fred Jordan, E-mail: [email protected]