Filed Under:  Local, News

DBE ordinance a ‘possibility’ at N.O. city council meeting

17th June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Nayita Wilson
Contributing Writer

A measure to completely revamp existing policies and procedures that govern the City of New Orleans’ Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is one step closer to a vote by the New Orleans City Council.

Last week, members of the council’s Economic Development Committee approved Ordinance No. 29,591, which if approved will amend and override Division 2 of Article IV of the code of the City of New Orleans, which speaks to set-aside and participation programs for construction contracts for minority and women owned businesses. The council is expected to vote on the measure at its regular meeting Thurs., June 20, at 10 a.m.

If adopted, the proposed ordinance will then establish and create: a disadvantaged business policy, definitions, applications, procedures and other relative requirements.

Going forward, certification will be the determining factor as to what firms are or are not considered disadvantaged.

Under current code, a business needs to prove that 51 percent or more of the company is owned by a woman or minority group that was socially, economically or culturally disadvantaged in order to receive consideration for construction contracts.

The new ordinance is not restrictive to the work performed and would define a DBE as an “entity or individual certified as a socially and economically disadvantaged business through one or more certification program(s) designated by the City.”

Other key changes addressed in the ordinance include registry, goal setting, contracting requirements and compliance. The ordinance requires the city to: create a public registry for all certified DBE programs; set a DBE participation goal of 35 percent on public and private projects that use public funding or incentives; require proof of prime contractors’ “good faith efforts” to involve DBEs during the bidding process; and impose penalties when compliance requirements are not met.

Likewise, the proposed ordinance gives the Chief Administrative Officer the authority to implement policies.

It also identifies seven contract types that are exempt: procurement of immoveable property; resolution of legal claims; cooperative endeavor agreements; procurement to satisfy declared emergency needs; restoration tax abatement credits for owner-occupied residential properties (with limitations); procurement or contract, except for public works, that are valued at “less than the applicable formal competitive procurement threshold”; and procurements or contracts that are $15,000 or less.

The currently enforced code requires: 20 percent participation of minority firms on construction projects each fiscal year; five percent participation of women owned business on construction projects each fiscal year; a stipulation to “encourage” craft based work to parish residents, minorities and women on single projects that exceed $50,000; a competitive bidding process that set aside certain contracts to ensure that the city’s met it’s 10 percent minority involvement quota; and an evaluation f the city to determine whether a contractor made good faith efforts to involve women or minority owned businesses on jobs.

City officials and economic develop leaders say these changes will strengthen compliance measures on the DBE program.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “For New Orleans’ economy to truly thrive, all of our businesses have to have the opportunity to benefit from public and private investment in our city.

“We have worked hard to level the playing field for small and disadvantaged businesses in the last three years. The number of certified DBEs has increased by over 70% since 2010, we are now actively monitoring and improving compliance, and there are strong DBE requirements for the billions of dollars hitting the ground with City, Airport, Sewerage and Water Board, and RTA projects. But we can and must do more,” he added.

Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, District D, authored the original proposal. Councilmembers Latoya Cantrell, District B, and James Gray, District E, later joined as co-authors.

Hedge-Morrell told The Louisiana Weekly, “This DBE ordinance provides significant access to opportunity for small and disadvantage businesses to participate in the economic growth of the New Orleans community in a manner that has not been done historically. This Ordinance not only provides economic stimulus for jobs and contracting opportunity, but also the creation of wealth and prosperity in marginalized communities.”

All three members of the council’s Economic Development Committee support the proposed changes as well: Council President & Committee Chair Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson as well as Councilmembers Cantrell and Gray.

To read the current code, visit the “Resources” section of the New Orleans City Council’s website at www.neworleanscitycouncil.com.

For more details about the proposed ordinances visit www.nola.gov.

To learn about the City’s DBE program, call (504) 658-4200 or email supplierdiversity@nola.gov.

This article originally published in the June 17, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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