News Stories May 5, 2006 and newer
Caltrans drops race element in
federally funded contracts
Excerpted from the JASON B.
JOHNSON story in the San Francisco Chronicle
"Caltrans announced this week that it will no longer use race as a factor in awarding
federally funded contracts, a change that affirmative action critics have praised while
minority groups are vowing to fight the move that they say will harm thousands of
"State Transportation Director Will Kempton, in a letter posted on the agency's Web
site, said Caltrans must make its policy race-neutral because it could not show sufficient
evidence that minority groups have suffered discrimination in the state's contracting
industry, a standard required under a recent decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco.
"The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which applies to federally funded
contracts administered by Caltrans, identifies disadvantaged, minority and female-owned
businesses and encourages their participation in contracts, often as subcontractors
partnering with larger firms. Caltrans' decision to change the program does not affect
outreach to female-owned businesses.
"Caltrans [had] a goal of giving 10.5 percent of its federal contracting dollars to
disadvantaged businesses. The percentage of Caltrans' federal dollars that went to
minority- and female-owned businesses last year was 8.9 percent.
"Deputy Caltrans Director Olivia Fonseca said the agency is looking for evidence of
discrimination in the transportation contracting industry. At stake is $5.1 billion
for 1,400 transportation projects throughout California over the next five years.
" 'Caltrans funds so many different projects around the state that we saw this as a
major problem, and it was contrary to what voters did when they adopted Prop. 209,' which
outlawed race-based hiring practices in the state, said Sharon Browne of the Pacific Legal
Foundation. The group had threatened to sue Caltrans over its disadvantaged business
"The agency's decision to make its program race-neutral could also affect the few
remaining race-based affirmative action programs in California since the passage of
Proposition 209 in 1996."
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Caltrans: Race Will No Longer Be
Factor In Contracts
Excerpted from the
Associated Press story as published on NBC11.COM
SACRAMENTO -- "A state agency won't
use race anymore when awarding contracts.
"The California Department of Transportation made the decision because it
could not show minorities suffered discrimination in contracting, Caltrans
said. [Emphasis added.]
"The department said it took the step early this week after a recent ruling by the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set out that standard.
"Caltrans has had a goal of giving 10.5 percent of its federal contracting dollars to
disadvantaged [i.e., minority-owned] businesses. The percentage of Caltrans' federal
dollars that went to minority- and female-owned businesses last year was 8.9 percent.
" 'Caltrans funds so many different projects around the state that we saw this [the
Western States decision] as a major problem, and it was contrary to what voters did when
they adopted Prop. 209,' which outlawed race-based hiring practices in the state, said
Sharon Browne of the Pacific Legal Foundation. The group had threatened to sue Caltrans
over its disadvantaged business program."
Last known link to the NBC11.COM Associated Press Story
Western States Paving Stories
Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal in
contractor discrimination case
Excerpted from THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS story as it appeared in the Seattle Post Intelligencer
Tuesday, February 21, 2006 -- Last updated 8:50 p.m. PT
"WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court
refused on Tuesday to consider an appeal filed by the city of Vancouver and Clark County
in southwest Washington state after an appellate court ruled the government can't favor
minority-owned businesses in awarding road-building contracts.
States Paving Co. had sued the city, county and state Department of Transportation after
losing several contracts to minority-owned firms that had submitted higher bids.
"Alison Chinn, a lawyer in the
Vancouver city attorney's office, said the city and Clark County sought the Supreme
Court's review ... Chinn said she had not seen the Supreme Court's denial of her petition.
'Obviously, I'm disappointed,' she said.
"The [Washington] state Department of Transportation was among the agencies Western
States Paving sued, but did not join the city and county in appealing the case to the
-- Tuesday, February 21, 2006
(The Supreme Court case citation is Vancouver v. Western States Paving, 05-591.)
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Road contracts for minority firms may
Excerpted from Edwin Garcia
story in the San Jose Mercury News
Posted on Wed, Feb. 08, 2006
"SACRAMENTO - Just when California is
poised to ramp up road construction, Caltrans may roll back a civil rights program that
has steered tens of thousands of federally funded contracts to women- and minority-owned
small businesses across the state.
"State Department of
Transportation officials say they prefer to continue administering the Disadvantaged
Business Enterprise program -- which pushes large contractors to give a percentage of
their contracts to female and minority subcontractors -- but a federal court decision
could kill the decades-old quota system.
"The ruling by the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in May forces Caltrans to prove to the U.S. Department of
Transportation that discrimination exists among the big contractors that share a $4
billion pot of federal transportation construction funding.
"And that may be difficult.
"Caltrans officials recently
hosted 12 public forums for small-business owners and other interested parties around
California, and only 70 people testified that they had encountered discrimination. Two
people spoke in opposition to the program, which has been around for 27 years.
"... the owners and employees
of many small [minority owned] firms may be shut out and, some predict, forced to shut
down. 'If they discontinue the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise,' said Tu Nguyen,
whose San Jose company works on irrigation projects at freeway interchanges, 'it's going
to hurt a lot.'
"The program works like this:
Say California is awarded federal funding for a project, such as the $40.1 million to
repair the pavement and bridge at a Branham Lane overcrossing in San Jose. The state tells
the main contractor that its bid should include a certain percentage, based on a formula,
of business with women- or minority-owned firms -- in this case 11 percent of the project
value. As a result, 10 'disadvantaged' businesses are working there on contracts worth
"But a court challenge against Washington state has prompted transportation officials
in California -- and other states -- to re-evaluate the program.
"The suit, filed by Western
States Paving of Vancouver, alleged that its white owner was turned down for
subcontracting work by the city of Vancouver and Clark County because the prime contractor
chose minority-owned firms instead. In one instance, the bid by Western States Paving was
$100,000 less than a minority bid.
"In the end, the appeals court
ruled that Washington 'has not proffered any evidence of discrimination within its own
contracting market' and therefore 'failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that its DBE
program is narrowly tailored to further Congress' compelling remedial interest.'
"There are at least 5,000 firms listed on the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise
"I think a lot of companies
will go out of business if this happens, without the legal requirement for large companies
to hire smaller, minority-owned companies," said Todd Christner, director of
operations for DBE Goodfaith, a Web-based firm that helps connect [minority-owned]
contractors with subcontractors. Christner is convinced that contractors will either do
the work themselves, or hire white-owned subcontracting firms they've known for
years." -- Wed, Feb. 08, 2006
known link to the complete San Jose Mercury News Story
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9th Circuit panel rejects
Excerpted from the Donna
Gordon Blankinship Associated Press story in the Seattle Times
Posted on Tue., May 10, 2005
"Washington state cannot favor minority-owned firms in awarding road-building
contracts because it hasn't proved minority contractors have faced discrimination, a
three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
"Western States Paving of
Vancouver, Wash., sued the state Department of Transportation, Clark County and the city
of Vancouver after losing several road-paving contracts to minority-owned firms with
"The company argued that
federal law allowing states to give preference to minority firms was unconstitutional, and
that the state did not properly follow federal guidelines.
"The law allows use of race-
and sex-based preferences in federally funded transportation contracts, but only if a
state has proved there has been bias against minority contractors.
"The three-judge [9th Circuit
Court of Appeals] panel said the Department of Transportation did not provide enough
evidence that minorities suffer or have ever suffered discrimination in transportation
contracting. 'We have previously expressed similar concerns about the haphazard
inclusion of minority groups in affirmative-action programs ostensibly designed to remedy
the effects of discrimination,' the opinion said.
"Gary Lofland, a Yakima
attorney representing Western States Paving, said the company was pleased with the
decision and believes the court followed existing law, calling for evidence of past
discrimination before approving race-based preferences. 'Throughout the proceeding,
the state has acknowledged it never had that evidence,' Lofland said.
"State officials declined to
comment yesterday, saying they had not yet read the 9th Circuit opinion." -- Tue., May 10, 2005
Last Known Link 1 to Original Seattle Times Story
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