Editorial: Minority Inclusion in Public Contracts Helps Level the Playing Field

By on April 30, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  In rapid succession, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and St. Louis County Council recently approved legislation establishing standards for minority participation in local government contracts. The bills’ unanimous approval shows that elected officials understand they need to pay more than lip service to sharing the financial pie from government contracts.

Inclusion was a long time coming in both jurisdictions. The goal of eliminating discrimination in public contracts is a worthy one, even if the formulas the two boards concocted are awkward and potentially problematic.

Contracting practices that reward companies with experience tend overwhelmingly to favor white male contractors. Continuing those practices can only help stifle opportunities for financial advancement among women and minorities. The longer such practices go unaddressed, the harder it is to break the cycle of exclusion.

While these bills open the door, the hard work will be managing and enforcing the resulting quotas. Authorities struggled with earlier versions of minority-inclusion measures to make sure that primary contractors observed the requirements instead of using front companies with token minority ownership to circumvent the requirements.

Karlos Ramirez, president and CEO of the St. Louis Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, argued that the city’s measure separating requirements by race and ethnicity extends segregation and could influence which minority groups participate.

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