Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Asian-Americans Deserve Fair Share in Business Contracts with City

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Asian-Americans Deserve Fair Share in Business Contracts with City

Article excerpt

SOME SEVEN years ago, a group of African-Americans here became squeaky wheels over the construction of a new football stadium, arguing for increased black participation in the project.

Their complaints drew grousing from some who argued that minorities didn't need any special efforts to be included in stadium construction or other city projects, even though minority firms were rarely included in major construction projects and rarely got any city business at all.

Despite the criticism taken by the squeaky wheels, their efforts led to a $325,000 study by a Washington firm headed by Andrew F. Brimmer. The study's results were no surprise: Blacks and women, it said, did not get a fair share of government contracts. That study showed that blacks owned l ess than 1 percent of all businesses in the city - and got only one-fifth of 1 percent of business receipts. Those black firms that were able to win a city contract had trouble getting financing or bonding, the study said.

"To a considerable extent, the history of blacks in St. Louis has been a chronicle of deep-seated and pervasive racial discrimination," the report said.

Eventually rules were put into place by then-Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr. to help minority-owned companies compete with more established white-owned businesses for contracts to provide the city with goods and services. That program was designed to distribute contracts in a fairer manner by earmarking 25 percent of the city's contracts for minority firms. In a city where blacks make up about half of the population, the goal seemed reasonable.

The original rules were designed specifically with blacks and women in mind. But after considerable lobbying by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanics were added to the rules.

But a couple of years ago, Asian-Americans began complaining. They were not being recognized as minorities under the city's definition, and Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. had indicated that it would be difficult to include them, despite their argument that businesses owned by Asian-Americans were at a disadvantage in competing for city contracts. …

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