April 23, 2004


Asians bumped from contract set-aside plan (FRAN SPIELMAN, April 23, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Asian-American contractors will no longer be automatically included in Chicago's construction set-aside program under a watered-down re-write unveiled Thursday to satisfy a federal judge.

Instead of rolling the dice and taking the chance the entire minority set-aside ordinance could be overturned, a mayoral task force held its nose and followed U.S. District Judge James Moran's roadmap to the letter.

Task force members proposed an ordinance that nobody seems particularly thrilled about, but everybody agrees can be legally defended.

Asian-Americans will no longer be included automatically in a "presumptively socially disadvantaged" group that includes African-Americans, Hispanics and women. They'll have to apply individually and sign affidavits documenting past discrimination.

The redrawn ordinance also includes a five-year sunset provision; an economic cap that amounts to a personal net worth of $750,000 -- not counting the owner's equity in a personal residence or the business seeking certification, and revised set-aside levels of 24 percent for minority contractors and 4 percent for women, down from 25 percent and 5 percent.

A groundbreaking "Target Market" program that allows minorities to compete against each other for the more lucrative role of prime contractor will be revised to include all small businesses, including whites. The economic cut-off has not yet been established.

"This is as good as we can get without jeopardizing everything. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Ald. William Beavers (7th), chairman of the City Council's Budget Committee who presided over the rewrite.

"We did exactly what the judge wanted us to do. We're not taking any chances. . . . White folks ain't going to give up. We expect them to come back with another lawsuit. We want to be prepared and be able to justify this ordinance."

Asian-American contractors reacted angrily to the changes, arguing there has been just as much discrimination against Asians as there has been against blacks, Hispanics and women.

"We're serving as a scapegoat. In order to save the program, they're willing to toss Asian contractors overboard," said Ernest Wong, president of Site Design Group Ltd., a landscape architecture firm.

So does Liberalism descend into lunacy...

You can see in a case like this one though why the Democratic coalition can not hold--too many groups have interests antithetical to each other and the only thing holding them together at all is the prospect of government benefits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2004 10:14 AM
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