The Shreveport City Council voted on Tuesday, Dec. 12, to fund an economic disparity study.
Councilman Willie Bradford proposed a budget amendment of $300,000 to the study.
Council chairman James Flurry offered an amendment to only fund $150,000. After discussion, this motion passed 5 to 2. Councilmen Oliver Jenkins and Michael Corbin voted “no.”
Those voting for the study suggested that the balance of the needed funded could be requested from the Caddo Parish School Board, the Caddo Commission and maybe the Northwest Louisiana Economic Partnership.
Last year a similar effort by Bradford to fund a disparity study in the amount of $400,000 failed. That vote was along racial lines.
A disparity study examines whether there are disparities between the percentage of dollars that minority- and women-owned businesses receive on city contracts and subcontracts. It also reviews percentage of dollars that those firms might be expected to receive based on their availability to perform on the city’s prime contracts and subcontracts.
A disparity study typically determines if the environment is fair and equitable to all parties seeking to participate in those opportunities. It provides a factual foundation to help ensure that agencies are using procurement policies and processes that result in fair and equitable outcomes.
Such a study also examines if further processes need to be implemented to ensure that contacting practices are fair and nondiscriminatory.
These studies have been utilized by some municipalities to set quotas for minority- and women-owned businesses in public contracts.
Studies have been conducted in Atlanta, Memphis and Birmingham. Currently such a study is being conducted in New Orleans.
The Baton Rouge mayor-president Sharon Broome recently issued an executive order to have study conducted in East Baton Rouge Parish. (Baton Rouge has a combined city/parish government). Last week she asked the Metro Council members to delay a vote on a $300,000 study until next year.
Currently Shreveport has a Fair Share Program that encourages city contractors to utilize minority- and women-owned businesses. The program has a goal, not a quota, of 25% for minority- and women-owned businesses for each city contract.
The ordinances passed on Tuesday were delivered to the mayor’s office two days later. Ollie Tyler opposes a disparity study. She has seven calendar days to veto the funding ordinance.
The Council can override a veto with five votes. Presumably the five who voted for the funding would vote again for it and override a veto.
Another option for Tyler is to sit on the ordinance and do nothing. If the city does not issue a Request for Proposal on the study, then no action will be taken. Many believe that this is the course of action that Tyler will take.
The Council’s vote was historic. However the fact that it did not fund completely the expected cost of a study was a compromise to obtain passage.
Mayor Tyler has not commented publicly on the proposed study. What actions she takes on the ordinance will certainly send a message to Shreveport voters.
The disparity study will probably be a campaign issue in the 2018 mayor and council races.
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