NEW YORK – Businesses run by women and minorities will be awarded a significantly larger amount of city contracts by 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
Current rules require the city to dole out most of its contracts to the lowest bidder, but De Blasio, who has faced harsh criticism for not doing more to reduce inequality, promised 30 percent of city contract dollars would go toward businesses owned and run by minorities or women – even if their bids aren’t the lowest.
“This is something we have to do for our neighborhoods. This is something we have to do for fairness and equality. This is something we have to do for job creation,” de Blasio said. “It is a much better way, on behalf of the taxpayers, to spend their money.”
The de Blasio administration was criticized by Comptroller Scott Stringer just last week for not doing enough to cut down inequality. Audits from Stringer’s office found only 5.3 percent of the $14 billion New York City spent on goods and services last year went to certified minority and women-owned enterprises (M/WBE).
“We cannot hide these inequities in the shadows of our progress,” Stringer said. “We cannot settle for a City where aspiration is limited by what you look like, how old you are, or where you come from.”
Stringer gave the city a D for the way it has engaged M/WBE businesses; that’s a step down from last year when he gave the city a D+.
“It’s a disgrace,” Stringer said.
The comptroller’s statements were misleading and didn’t look at the totality of what the city is doing, de Blasio said. In Fiscal Year 2015, M/WBE’s were awarded eight percent of all contract dollars.
That amount nearly doubled to a record 14 percent in Fiscal Year 2016, but de Blasio is looking to more than double that within five years.
“The 30 percent goal is ambitious, but we believe in it,” de Blasio said. “We will hold ourselves accountable to it.”
New York State law might be a stumbling block in the way of that achievement, De Blasio said. Though Governor Cuomo set a statewide 30 percent M/WBE goal in 2014, state law isn’t flexible enough and needs to change for the city to achieve its goal.
State legislators need to author legislation that gives the city more leeway to bring opportunities to M/WBE’s, de Blasio said. In the meantime, the mayor signed six bills revolving around the issue into law Wednesday.
The new laws will require the city to train contracting officers, establish an M/WBE advisory board and publish M/WBE utilization plans online.
“We have by far the most comprehensive plan, the most comprehensive set of initiatives we’ve ever had to make sure that the City’s contract process is fair, transparent and equitable,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.