OAKLAND (CBS SF/BCN) — The city of Oakland recently took its first steps towards bettering equity in its contracting following a race and gender disparity study released in November.
Suspecting even before the study was released that inequity existed, a councilmember introduced legislation that may help some businesses weather the pandemic and get their fair share of contracts.READ MORE: Fed Judge in SF Approves $650 Million Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Settlement
City councilmembers on Feb. 16 will again hold the second reading of the Local Business Empowerment Through Contracting ordinance, which went back to committee to hear what the costs would be to implement the law.
“Clearly they are negligible or minimal,” Councilmember Loren Taylor said Tuesday.
The costs will be as little as $2,000, Deborah Barnes, director of the city’s Department of Workplace and Employment Standards, said in a special meeting Tuesday of the Community and Economic Development Committee.
In contrast, the disparities in city contracting appear to have a larger price tag, according to the disparity study, which analyzed data from 2001 to 2016. African American businesses certified as Local/Small Local Business Enterprises lost $42.9 million in city contracts over the study period. In other words, African American businesses were expected to be awarded $42.9 million more, given their eligibility.
The ordinance aims to make eight changes, several of which are small and technical in nature, including the truck storage requirements for the Local Oakland Local/Small Business Enterprise Trucking Certification Program.
The ordinance would also create a new business certification category called the Small Business Administration-Local Oakland Business Enterprise and redefine and expand the meaning of a “substantial business presence” and “local manufacturer” as evidence of a business’ presence in the city.
Taylor said that currently a business only needs to have one employee working in the city and a 12-month lease to be considered a local business.READ MORE: UPDATE: Victim, Suspect Identified In Fatal Oakland Park Shooting in Front of Children
He’s proposing to increase the employee presence to 20% of a company’s staff. Otherwise, larger companies can simply open a one-person office in Oakland and out-compete smaller firms in the city.
“It’s a great start,” Cathy Adams, president and CEO of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, said of the proposed ordinance, which will become law if it gets enough votes at the council meeting Feb. 16.
But she said it won’t fix everything.
Adams encouraged Black-owned businesses to be sure they are registered with the city to be ready if the ordinance passes. She said those businesses must do their part, too.
General contractor Mario Wagner of RF Contractors in Oakland said some businesses need COVID-19 relief.
“We need disparity relief,” he said.
Wagner said it has been a struggle to bid on projects with the city. He has turned to mentors and to forming groups of contractors who help each other. He’s hoping Taylor’s ordinance passes.MORE NEWS: COVID: Youth, Adult Multi-Team Sports Can Resume In Alameda Co., Berkeley
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