City Manager: Delay Responsible Bidder Implementation

Feb 7, 2018

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is asking council to delay implementation of the responsible bidder and local hire contracting requirements.

A federal appeals court recently ruled the city could enforce the apprenticeship portion of the responsible bidder ordinance. It requires companies bidding on city projects worth more than $400,000 to have a job training program, or apprenticeship, for workers.

The local hire provision requires some portion of construction contract work be done by local residents, and some portion completed by disadvantaged workers.

City administrators are concerned the requirements could hurt efforts the city is undertaking to award more contracts to minority and women-owned businesses (MBE and WBE).

"In its current form, the responsible bidder and local hire legislative requirements will decimate the significant gains we've made in terms of creating a more inclusionary environment for MBEs and WBEs," Black wrote. "Additional time is needed to gather information, including market research, to involve local contractors and the various apprenticeship programs in the region in order to get a more accurate picture of the impacts of local hire and responsible bidder requirements on the city, city-certified MBEs and WBEs, and the construction firms that bid on GCWW (Greater Cincinnati  Water Works) and SMU (stormwater) projects."

Black is asking council to delay implementation of both requirements until September 12.  That would require passage of an ordinance with such a delay, and there likely is not majority support for such a proposal.

Council member Chris Seelbach has been a major supporter of the responsible bidder ordinance.

"Training our middle class and local workers, residents from Westwood, to Avondale, to Madisonville, is a priority for this council and me personally," Seelbach wrote in a text. "There's no better training program out there, and a report last year showed over 50 percent of our inclusion contracts went to companies outside of our city and county."

Seelbach said the ordinance boosts hiring and training for all residents, and has been a law for several years.

"Delays won't raise people out of poverty," Seelbach said.

The Cincinnati branch of the NAACP also supports responsible bidder. In a written statement the civil rights organization said the city manager's memo is "a politically motivated strategic document designed to shield contractors from accountability, divide the community and construct the appearance of African American contractors fighting against African American citizens who are looking for employment opportunities."

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has a different opinion.  It said the responsible bidder ordinance will "create barriers to entry and limit competitive bidding."  It said in a statement the measure "runs counter to our inclusion goals."

The ordinance to delay implantation of the responsible bidder and local hiring requirements was not on council's agenda Wednesday.  Once introduced, the mayor will send it to committee for further debate.