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Councilor: Minority contractor lost chance at city contract because he wasn't on secret city mailing list

The City Council today agreed to look, again, at how to increase the percentage of contracts the city awards to companies owned by minorities and women - which, the last time the city disclosed numbers, was less than 1% of roughly $664 million in contracts each year.

One of the sponsors of the request for a formal hearing was at-large Councilor Michelle Wu, who said today that a local minority contractor, whom she did not name, spotted a bid in the Boston City Record, which lists city procurement requests, he wanted to bid on, but that after he spent considerable time preparing a bid was told he did not qualify because he did not attend a mandatory bid meeting.

The problem, Wu continued, was that the bid request didn't mention the meeting, so how was he supposed to know about it? Well, he was told, a notice was sent to "a private mailing list" the city department runs to alert would be bidders - which also was not disclosed anywhere. The frustrated contractor was told he could ask to be added to the list - so he'd know about future meetings.

"We've got a very, very long way to go," Wu said.

Wu, and Council President Kim Janey, who co-sponsored the request for a hearing, said that if the city is serious about increasing business for local-, minority- and women-owned businesses, it has to stop stuff like this.

"We have to do better and we must do better," Janey said. "It's high time we put our money where our mouth is." She said a first step would be for the city to publish quarterly reports breaking down the percentage of contracts that go to such businesses. She said that since the council voted in 2017 to require such reports, the city has come out with just two of them.

Council Andrea Campbell (Dorchester), though, called for going even further: The city, she said, should set specific goals for increasing the percentage of such contracts each year - with a 20% goal after three years. A city that professes to support equality of opportunity needs to do something for members of communities that have been "shut out of opportunities for generations," she said.

City Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) supported the basic idea, but said it should be extended to veterans as well, because veteran-owned companies are often overlooked as well.

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Comments

Ed Flynn, really bringing the brains as usual. Christ.

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What do you mean? Is there a problem with giving a vet consideration?

all lives matter.

All business should be open to everyone regardless of skin color or gender or what city official is being greased.
The politics in Boston is a cespool of corruption and backroom bullshit.

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73

That’s quite the claim. The councilors should identify the applicant and list so it can be verified. Would be easy for a disgruntled applicant to just make it up as a way to contest not getting selected for the contract otherwise.

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You should not be "selected" to get a chance to bid a contract.

That is the problem with secret lists.

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I think the comment was about getting selected for the contract, not to bid. They should name the contractor so it can be confirmed and name the secret list if one exists. Otherwise it's just an allegation.

100% sure he has a simple email receipt and it's already been shown to somebody. They're protecting the contractor from retaliation so he can have future business.

Duh.

If the city listed all their RFPs on a publicized website and each RFP included all the details that a person would need to apply for that contract, the problem would be solved. There could also be a sign-up box on that same website where one could enter their email address and be alerted every time a new contract was put up for bid.

It's a miracle!

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thanx, council-person michelle.
shes one of the few that excels at bringing politics to those she represents.

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Was the applicant really excluded because they are a 'minority'? It sounds more like the city might just have sloppy business practices.

I don't see how race/gender is an issue here.

its so knee jerk.

we agree with you.

I dont think its because hes a minority. It's just this way of doing business is toxic and idiotic and 1980ish ...and discourages newcomers who are probably more likely than the 'old boys' to be minority or female. Get ya panties out that bunch, captain.

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It's entirely possible that nobody in that department is a racist. It's not like it's 1974 anymore.

And yet, it's also possible that that department is excluding minority contractors. The department has a certain way of doing things (and it might very well make sense to have pre-bid meetings; those are hardly unusual). But because they're using policies that maybe date back aways, maybe they make assumptions or omissions (like that not only would a bidder know about the meetings, but would know to get on the mailing list, the one that isn't mentioned in published bid requests), they are effectively excluding new bidders, who are more likely to be minorities than in the past, because it's 2020 and the city frowns on racism and so encourages people to get into fields that were the preserves of white men 40 years ago.

And so somebody who is a minority bidder is blocked out of a contract. There may be no intention to do so anymore, but the net effect is the same. It's built into the bureaucratic structure. And it really shouldn't be hard to fix.

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big up. its similar to how of the first batch of marajuana licenses dispatched 18 were caucasion males, 1 caucasion female, 1 black male. the black guy is council-person tito jackson so he obviously knew what palms to grease.

the point is that pierre the m.b.t.a. driver will never be 'in the know'.

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21

When they go out of their way to not let you into the club house, you have to start asking yourself why?

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You have to write all correspondence on the exclusive stationery provided once you are "officially" on the list. If you didn't get your stationery....

Usually, apathy. It's not going out of your way to exclude people, just not making an effort to not miss anyone. The person responsible for posting to the website, is not the person who arranged the ad hoc meeting. The person who arranged the meeting did the minimum, sending an email, without making the sure the website was updated, because updating the website isn't their job. That's the reason behind lots of failures like this.

Yes, it tilts the scale towards legacy bidders who are more experienced and connected, but playing the race card over it is too much.

Yes, it tilts the scale towards legacy bidders who are more experienced and connected

Uh huh and...given the history of our country, what race do you think those legacy bidders are more likely to be?

Or to put it another way, something can have a racist outcome without a racist intention. If the status quo is unfairly tilted in one direction, apathy that keeps it that way is still unfair.

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Uh huh and...given the history of our country, what race do you think those legacy bidders are more likely to be?

Why are you partially quoting a sentence, and then finishing the partial quote with a condescending question as if the answer was missing from the remainder of the sentence? That's a bad way to debate.

As stated, playing the race card over these incidental "racist outcomes" is too much. The core problem is most likely apathy.

caucasion guilt.

white fragility.

this is an example of an ad hominem reaction, directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

Yeah, I'm going to still go with "white fragility".

Why are you quoting half of my comment and ignoring the other half? If we spent years discriminating against people because of their race (I'm hoping you're not going to dispute this part), and now we're just preserving the status quo because of apathy, the outcome is racist. Preserving a racist situation is itself racist, regardless of the reasoning behind it - and that's a great reason to expedite fixing the situation. I'm not sure why you have such an issue with people pointing that out.

acknowledging racism is uncomfortable.
its easier to pretend its not the problem.

If this is going on then why doesn't Wu formally complain to the AG? There is a state law that requires bids to be posted not just on a city web site but also on commbuys.com

This is what happened in Dracut after a selectman reported this to the AG:
http://www.yourdracuttoday.com/2019/08/14/224422/dracut-selectman-airs-c...

it resulted in a 2-year probationary status for this town:
https://www.lowellsun.com/2020/02/11/attorney-general-finds-dracut-viola...