Metro Council Minority Caucus reception highlights historic legislation

(l-r) Joyce Searcy, Rodney Strong, Sharon Hurt and Bob Fisher. (photo by Cass Teague)

Rodney K. Strong, chief executive officer of Griffin & Strong, PC, which conducted Metro Nashville’s most recent disparity study, gave the keynote address at a reception held on Thursday, March 14 at the Janet Ayers Conference Center at Belmont University. The minority caucus of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County hosted the reception to call attention to the impact of historic legislation it passed, which was subsequently signed into law by Metro Nashville Mayor David Briley.

Welcomes were given by Belmont officials Joyce Searcy and Bob Fisher, President of the University. Councilmember Sharon Hurt served as Mistress of Ceremonies, and Councilman Jonathan Hall gave the Invocation.

“We are serious about leveling the playing field for all businesses,” Hurt said. “We want to take all the steps necessary to ensure minority businesses are able to create jobs and wealth. This recent ordinance, along with the other policy changes announced, are very positive steps in the right direction, and I am excited to see minority businesses benefit from them.”

The Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County in January unanimously passed legislation to establish the Equal Business Opportunity program. Councilmember Tanaka Vercher, along with Councilmembers Sharon Hurt and Scott Davis, members of the minority caucus, sponsored the measure.

“This historic legislation is our opportunity to remove the inherent, systemic barriers women and minorities have experienced when seeking to do business with our government agencies,” Vercher said. “For decades, many businesses have not had an equitable opportunity to participate in our city’s progress, and I am excited that this council and this mayor took the necessary steps to encourage the growth and development of women and minority owned companies.”

The ordinance requires Metro Nashville to – among other things – implement race- and gender-conscious subcontracting goals, based on marketing availability, for all public contracts. This is a significant departure from the current ordinance, which allows for a race- and gender-neutral subcontracting program. The legislative changes are set to go into effect on July 5.

“To the members of the minority caucus I paraphrase Sam and Dave: you didn’t have to do it; but you did!” said Strong in his opening remarks in praising the Metro Council members. “You didn’t have to run for office; but you did! You didn’t have to put your name on a sign and a bumper sticker; but you did! You didn’t have to open your personal life and your personal finances to public scrutiny; but you did! You didn’t have to climb into the arena, but you did And I thank you!”

The historic legislative change comes on the heels of Metro Nashville’s most recent disparity study. The study found that the city’s procurement processes discriminated against women and minorities in its awarding of public contracts. It also determined, among other findings, that women and minority businesses were underutilized in public work.

In closing, Strong noted, “I applaud the work that has been done thus far by Metro government and I am confident that much good will come from the effort you put forward so far. look forward to the great results we will see from you in the future.”

“Tonight’s admonition was for all of us to do more to ensure that everyone in Nashville’s feels like a valued part of the “It City”, no matter where they live, study, or work,” said Timothy Hughes, Sr. Project Manager, The Equity Alliance. “We all have a stake in making Nashville an oasis of opportunity for the many & not a playground of privilege for the few…”