An embarrassingly small amount of New York City contracts have been awarded to minority- or women-owned business, and activist Bertha Lewis, in her in-your-face-way, called out her friend, Mayor Bill de Blasio, about the disparity.
When it comes to the bottom line, Lewis is about as subtle or discerning in her targets as a Scud missile.
“I’m not trying to blindside anyone, but guess what? This is serious,” said Lewis, founder of the Working Families Party, to the New York Daily News. “Anybody that knows me, knows I don’t beat around the bush.”
In this case, she just beat up her close friend, de Blasio, in his first year as mayor. While saying overall that he’s “doing a good job” as the leader of the largest city in America, she pointed out some damning figures in the Lewis Black Institute Report.
In a 65-page report, Lewis breaks down that only about only about 4 percent of the city’s prime and subcontracts were awarded to MWBEs— minority- and women-owned business enterprises. Grossly unacceptable.
The city awarded close to $690 million in MWBE contracts, which is 57 percent higher than the year before, but only 4 percent of the city’s contracts were awarded to those businesses. In 2012, the Michael Bloomberg administration awarded 5 percent of all city contracts to the enterprises.
“In a city that is majority-minority, to have MWBEs get a pittance of contracts is outrageous on its face,” Lewis said.
With municipal contracts, city law requires acceptance of the best deal — not always the lowest bidder, complicating efforts to boost the number of minority- and women-owned businesses chosen. To raise the numbers, Lewis wants de Blasio to appoint a chief diversity officer and to aim for granting 35% of all contracts to those businesses.
Currently, mayoral counsel Maya Wiley leads the program that awards contracts. And although she has other duties, the mayor’s office said having someone who reports directly to de Blasio would the best way to increase the numbers, which sounds a lot like the diversity officer Lewis is proposing.
“If we don’t take bold action and face this issue head-on, then how are we actually dealing with the fact that this is a majority-minority city?” she said to the News.