Aldermen avoid minority procurement policy approval

Mayor Larry Morrissey aids in averting amendment

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey broke a 6-6 tie to thwart Ald. Patrick Curran’s (R-2) suggested amendment to the proposed Minority Women Business Procurement Policy.

Curran moved to change the policy’s minority and women contractor participation goals from 25 percent and 5 to 15 percent across the board. He said the policy’s current goals seemed arbitrary.

Morrissey said, after the vote (which resulted in a layover on the final vote to next week), the policy could work without the numbers. He noted Winnebago County’s new procurement policy included no goals. But Morrissey stressed he wasn’t against setting goals.

“A number was picked without a lot of rationale behind it,” Curran said, stressing the city could never practically meet the goal of giving 25 percent of all contracts to minorities. Curran has previously said he doesn’t like the concept of “quotas.”

But Ald. Ann Thompson (D-7), who spearheaded the policy, said the numbers are only goals. Thompson also questioned how Curran could justify his numbers.

“I got my numbers the same place she got her numbers,” Curran said.

That wasn’t the only action in the room. Campos Construction’s Linda Campos acknowledged, during public participation, the need for the policy and commended the city for recognizing the need. But Campos said the policy’s goals should be reviewed. She said there should be one goal for both women and minorities.

Campos questioned the policy’s true motives. She offered her take on what the policy should help achieve.

“It’s about building business, not frauds or fronts,” Campos said.

While Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) said he believed Campos had sincere concerns, he was uncomfortable about amending the policy on the council floor. Bell stressed more issues should have been ironed out in the Codes and Regulation Committee.

According to Ald. John Beck (R-12), committee members attempted to amend the policy. But when Curran posed changes, Thompson allegedly took offense.

Bell clarified what the policy’s numbers signify.

“We’re not talking about set asides,” Bell said. “We are beginning to tamper with the hope that these small businesses have. It really is time for this council to move forward,” Bell said, adding the council should not drag its feet on the policy. “It is time for this council to send a positive message.”

While Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) said she agrees the issue needs addressing, she had concerns about the policy. McNeely said she had a conflict with the numbers. But she stressed she didn’t support Curran’s proposed change.

“This is not a game to come up with some other numbers,” McNeely said.

McNeely said women can have just as much difficulty accessing opportunity as minorities.

Sharifa Nichols, past president of Northern Illinois Minority Companies Association, differed with Campos. Nichols said she supported the proposed policy as presented. She said minorities don’t have the same opportunities as women.

“I encourage each of you to vote for a change,” Nichols said. “I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to move forward. That’s a farce. Whenever there are goals, white women exceed those goals.”

“It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right,” Developer Oliver Emerson said.

Emerson argued Thompson had clearly done her homework, to come up with the goals. Emerson said Curran seemed to be “caught up” in the plight of women with no justification.

“He stonewalled it,” Emerson said, referring to the proposed policy.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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