Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CPS and Minority Contractors: Is This Really Such A Mystery?

The Enquirer now reports that Cincinnati Public Schools has "reached out" to minority contractors in an effort to increase minority involvement in CPS's ongoing construction projects. The Enquirer describes the new plan as "experimental." My question: this isn't really as difficult as CPS is making it out to be, is it?

CPS has insisted (sincerely, I believe) that it is committed to minority involvement in its construction contracts. It seems befuddled as to how to get there. But there exists, within Cincinnati, a working model as to how to use race-neutral means to achieve significant minority participation in construction: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Some time ago, the inestimable Dan Hurley did an excellent segment on Newsmakers on how the Freedom Center was able to achieve contracting out 40% of the work to minority-owned firms. I'll not recount the process here in great detail, but perhaps CPS Board members should follow the link and watch the video.

It should be noted that involving minority-owned firms doesn't necessarily ensure the employment of minority workers. That's a whole other blog post, I think. But I can't figure out why CPS is having such a hard time doing something that was accomplished just a few years ago in Cincinnati.

Finally, this is probably the right time to note my disagreement with Griff's post on Christopher Smitherman's arrest last week. Mr. Smitherman and Rev. Foster were acting in the best tradition of the civil rights movement: engaging in civil disobedience to bring attention to an important social problem. They demonstrated peaceably and offered no resistance to the police when arrested. And prior to their protest, they had exhausted other means to bring about change, having petitioned CPS several times to redress their concerns. Their actions are akin to the Flannery Five's sit-in in Steve Chabot's office to protest the Iraq war back in 2006. You may disagree with their viewpoint, but their actions are consistent with a rich tradition of American activism.

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