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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Creation of economic equality council calls for the right leader

Following of decades of struggle and inequality in the assignment of city-managed contracts, St. Paul has created a new city department that aims to make city contracts more accessible to owners of firms from traditionally underrepresented communities.

The creation of the Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity will bring together civil rights enforcement; contract analysis and procurement; contract monitoring, investigation, and enforcement; and capacity building and workforce development under one roof. At the moment, those services are spread between four departments with little overlap and coordination.

A recent audit found that less than 7 percent of $220 million worth of contracts in 2006 went to minority- and female-owned businesses.

The new department, which will open its offices next year, has started the search process for a director. The 13-member search committee -- which includes St. Paul attorneys Tene Davis and A.L. Brown, along with former St. Paul deputy mayor Susan Kimberly and St. Paul NAACP head Nathaniel Khaliq -- plans to solicit public input on the selection process during a meeting tomorrow.

It seems there might be plenty of attorneys whose backgrounds not only in contract work but work on behalf of disenfranchised communities might make them worth a look. Regardless, the search process for the director (which the committee hopes to complete by January) ought to be interesting.

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