“Governor David Paterson Signs First New York State MWBE Bill into Law” PART I

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

This is going to be a 3-Part Report. Why? Because of the monumental significance of this legislation. Because Governor David A. Paterson has made history in the State of New York. Because of the far reaching effects this bill has on the Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE), who have been systematically and effectively kept out of the loop by avaricious, racist practices that had been allowed to continue unabated, despite the efforts on the local and federal level.

While this initially will be a 3-part article, there will be articles and updates as progress is made in including more and more Minorities and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE) into New York’s business arena.

When I wrote the headline: “Governor David Paterson Signs First New York State MWBE Bill into Law” for Our Times Press, you have no idea how proud I was of Governor Paterson, and of those who stayed the course to deliver this monumental piece of legislation for us.

By us, do I need to say Black people (Blacks, Hispanic, Asian, and other non-white citizens). While the Governor’s responsibility is for all New Yorkers, we all know that prior to him, that “all people” part was in name only. And whenever there was any kind of so-called minority business inclusionary effort, the mainstream contractors did every thing under the sun (and a little in the dark) to keep from complying with it.

As a former Minority Business Compliance Officer myself, for a Japanese firm, Nissho Iwai American Corp; the New York City Transit Authority, and Lehrer McGovern Bovis (LMB), I can personally tell you of the many egregious efforts to thwart the goals, to circumvent the program; to undermine the process on the part of the mainstream, prime (read, white) contractors.

The Japanese made extraordinary efforts to comply, and actually exceed the requirements, and actively outreached to Black and minority owned businesses. The Transit Authority likewise held active technical assistance training programs to bring more minority businesses on board. But during my time at LMB, there were so many times that mainstream contractors through trickery, lies and deceit -- not to mention bribery and threats, did every thing they could to block implementation of the MWBE programs. If a Black contractor qualified as a prime contractor, making him eligible for full funding, and to be able to hire his own crew, they would try to make their and my life a living hell.

But on July 15, history was made in Harlem with the whisk of a pen, as New York State Governor David A. Paterson signed into law four sweeping legislations that makes it mandatory for State and local government to include minority and women owned businesses in contract and business negotiations and allocations. And as I witnessed that historic signing, I had a flash back to what that truly meant.

The Art Gallery at Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building was packed to witness Governor Paterson, who hosted the event, and the ceremonious signing of this much awaited piece of legislation, the first of its kind in the history of New York State. Many of them were likewise from those bad old days of the early on struggle for minority contractor participation. I do believe I saw some teary eyes in the audience.

Flanking Governor Paterson were New York State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (affectionately known as the “Queen Mother”), State Senator Kevin Parker, Malcolm Smith, NYS Assemblymembers Darryl Towns, Keith Wright, City Council member Robert Jackson, Michael Jones-Bey, Executive Director Minority & Women’s Business Development, and Michael Garner, Chief Diversity Officer with the MTA, Speaker Sheldon Silver, Paul Williams of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), who headed up the task force that put this legislation together.

This historical event may well be one of the high marks in Governor Paterson’s turbulent tenure as the first Black governor of New York. He has done what his predecessors have failed to do. Previous MWBE legislations were little more than executive orders, which included more loopholes than anything else. Such clauses as “best efforts”, which allowed mainstream businesses to side step including minority contractors in a city that is perpetually under construction, nearly 24/7, by claiming there were no “qualified” contractors to fill the bill.

It is clear that without the concerted combined efforts of State Senator Ruth Hassell Thompson, Michael Jones-Bey, and the members of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, working in concert with consultants, advocacy groups, and minority and women owned businesses throughout the state, this bill would not have been as comprehensive and far reaching as it is. Finally, this is a bill with some teeth in it.

For decades to come, minority business owners can mark July 15, 2010 as a history making day in the State of New York. Many never thought they would ever see the day come. Now July 15 will be etched in their memories.

Governor David A. Paterson has done what no other New York governor has ever done, and signed four epoch-making bills into law. Because of his diligent efforts, under the most disconcerting pressure of trying to balance the budget, and warding off the barbs of a hostile media, Governor Paterson has signed legislation that finally establishes a level playing field for Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises. They should allocate July 15 as a day for celebration and commemoration.

As he signed the bills into law, he stated proudly: "With these pieces of legislation, our State is building on its proud history of opening the door to success for any New Yorker who has the talent, drive and passion for their business to succeed. But there is still much work to be done to correct disparities in government contracting. By improving equity in the State procurement process and facilitating greater access for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, we help businesses thrive, and we will help our State recover from recession."

Three of the bills were Governor’s Program Bills.
Governor's Program Bill No. 297 (S.8312/ A.11525): Raises the cap on discretionary purchases that a State agency can award to MWBEs or small businesses from $100,000 to $200,000, subject to the agency's internal controls, but not based on full-blown competitive procurement procedures.

Governor's Program Bill No. 298 (S.8313/ A.11526)
: Expands contracting practices of public authorities granting increased opportunities for MWBE participation. Additionally, requires that the procurement guidelines for each State public authority include the designation of one or more senior staff to oversee the authority's MWBE program and requires that procurements be conducted to achieve the authority's MWBE goals to the maximum feasible extent.

Governor's Program Bill No. 299 (S.8314/A.11527)
: Expands and strengthens the State's program for MWBE contracting, and authorizes a new and more thorough disparity study before the provisions relating to the MWBE program expires in 2014, including in-depth review of contractors' hiring and promotional practices. This legislation will also create the position of Chief Diversity Officer to oversee the MWBE program and diversity issues in the workforce from within the Executive Chamber.

In addition to the three programmatic bills, the Governor also signed the: Emerging Investment Managers Bill (S.6888/ A.9976): Addresses entities that are not executive agencies, and that control large pools of money for investment: the Comptroller, the State Insurance Fund and the Deferred Compensation Board. This legislation will provide emerging investment managers the ability to invest with MWBE financial institutions and to adopt a strategy that motivates investments in underserved regions of the State.

To find out more about the MWBE legislation, contact your local New York State Assembly member or State Senator. You can also log on to www.ny.gov/governor, for details about the legislations.

Part II will have reactions from several of the other legislators and advocates who participated in putting together one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the State of New York.

To be continued...

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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