Mayor John Cranley said this morning he has enough votes on city council to spend $175,000 on a consultant to study the city's minority contracting and set up an Office for Minority Inclusion at City Hall.
Cincinnati's record for awarding city contracts to African-American and female-owned businesses is not good and has been criticized for years.
At a city hall press conference this morning, Cranley said Janet Reid of Cincinnati, the CEO of The Trusted Advisor Team, will held up a study of the best practices and work with a volunteer advisory committee made of minority business owners and other stakeholders on studying the problem and establishing the new office.
Reid has done consulting work with governments world wide on minority inclusion issues.
Last year, only about three percent of city contracts were awarded to African-American firms, six percent to women-owned businesses and none to Hispanic companies.
"These numbers just don't reflect the diversity of our community and they have got to be improved,'' Cranley said.
Cranley said seven of nine council members had signed on to the plan - Christopher Smitherman, David Mann, Charlie Winburn, Kevin Flynn, Yvette Simpson, Amy Murray and Wendell Young.
The $175,000 will come from vacant city positions that are already in the city budget.
On Tuesday, Council's Education and Entrepreneurship Committee heard from people who have tried to get some of that work.
Walter Huckaby is the president of the African-American Contractors and Business Association. He said it is a complicated issue.
“I think the approaches that have occurred in the past haven’t worked to tackle everything,” Huckaby said. “I don’t know if there’s a clear understanding of all the pressures and different way that things are being pulled, or coming against the minority contractors in order to come up with a plan that actually works.”
Business owner Zola Stewart said part of the problem is accountability.
“Who is holding the people responsible for ensuring that the city follows their own policies,” Stewart said.
Stewart also said the city needs to enforce its policies and make sure small businesses are getting access to information about bidding on city contracts.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision limits the city's ability to award contracts based on race and gender, unless a study shows that is necessary. Such a review is underway.