No sign of progress on fairness, equity in Metro Procurement despite Mayor’s promise

The Equal Business Opportunity Ordinance was signed by Mayor David Briley to remediate long-standing discrimination and under-utilization of minority and women-owned businesses within Metro Procurement and address marketplace barriers documented in a 2018 Disparity Study on January 11. However, since the passing of the new ordinance there has been no sign from the mayor’s office or Metro Procurement to indicate that progress is being made towards ensuring that all Nashvillians have an opportunity to participate in our city’s growth and success. In fact, evidence suggests that under the current leadership we are moving in the wrong direction for fairness and equity in Metro Procurement for minority businesses.

The NAACP Economic Development Committee compared the results of the current Procurement director’s performance (18 months) versus that of the previous director (60 months). The FY 2018 BAO and KPI Reports indicate that under the current leadership, African American businesses received $22,920,887 or 1.8% of available contracts, which is less than the 2.88% of contract awards that African Americans received under the previous administration as indicated in the Procurement Standards Board Annual Reports for FY’s 2012-2016. For every day that this administration delays implementing the full scope of the recommendations in the 2018 Disparity Study, minority and women-owned businesses miss opportunities worth millions of dollars.

Also, as Nashville’s history has shown, legislation without adequate funding, committed staff, meaningful policies/standards, and constant oversight has not been effective in ensuring compliance of previous ordinances. For years, the NAACP EDC has been a leader in highlighting the gross disparity that continued within Metro Procurement even after the passage of the 2008 Procurement Nondiscrimination Program Ordinance, which was enacted after previous disparity studies to address discrimination in minority contracting. We have communicated routinely with the Mayor’s office, Metro Council, and authored several opinion pieces highlighting our findings. Our committee’s goal is to help pass new legislation, standards and policies, and institute effective oversight to achieve lasting results.

While Mayor Briley has announced the addition of $442,000 in his budget for 2019 to implement the Equal Business Opportunity Ordinance, we fear a repeat of noncompliance of the new ordinance if detailed measures/actions aren’t put in place before the EBO program becomes effective on July 1. Since January 30, the NAACP EDC has sent repeated requests to the mayor’s office and Metro Procurement staff for information regarding the development of policies to implement the new ordinance but have not received a response. Therefore, we don’t have confidence that the work is being done. So the EDC asks Mayor Briley, is it more of the same with Metro Government even after the 2018 disparity study and your promise?