NEW YORK—The candidates in the 2013 New York City mayoral race will likely disagree on many items in the upcoming election, however on June 12, they all agreed on one—the Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification process is in need of serious improvement.
“Out of $15 billion in city contracts, 3.7 percent go to minority and women-owned businesses. That is extraordinary,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said on Tuesday. He went on to point out in 2011 the awards were $561 million, down from $714 million in 2010, a reduction of 20 percent. “We are not going forward, but backward,” he added.
Stringer was part of a panel of six possible mayoral candidates at the 2013 Mayoral Candidate Roundtable put on by City and State Newspaper, marking the first time the candidates appeared together. Manhattan Media President Tom Allon and NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson were the only panelists who have officially declared their candidacies.
The unofficial candidates were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and New York City Comptroller John Liu. Liu’s campaign has been under intense scrutiny by the FBI for fraud, including the arrest of his campaign treasurer Jenny Hou in February.
The candidates discussed local law 129, which was put into place in 2005 after sponsorship by Liu, Quinn, and de Blasio. The law was supposed to help support women and minority-owned businesses, however the candidates agreed it has failed to do so.
“In 2005, we took steps and passed a bill that was incredibly well intentioned, but looking back, the legislative scope of that bill didn’t go far enough and clearly the implementation was not done correctly,” Speaker Quinn said.
Five of the candidates said they would be in favor of creating a chief diversity officer in the mayor’s office to ensure policy is being followed and goals are met. Liu was the only candidate not in favor of the new position.
Allon challenged his fellow candidates who hold public office not to wait to appoint the chief diversity officer if they feel it would help.
“We shouldn’t wait for two years for this initiative to start. All of you could hire a chief diversity officer if you are office holders and try to make that a priority in your office,” Allon said to applause from the audience.
Toward the end of the discussion, Quenia Abreu, president and CEO of the New York Women’s Chamber, was selected to ask a question of the panel. She said she had planned to ask about the required affidavit for Latino business owners to prove their ethnicity, but recanted her question based on new developments Tuesday morning.
“I am happy to report that I met with SBS (Small Business Services of New York City) and the Mayor’s Office of Contracting, and they have agreed this morning to do away with the affidavit,” Abreu said to applause.
SBS required affidavits to prove ethnicity from Latino business owners to get M/WBE certification, but not from other groups, Abreu explained after the panel.
“We said, ‘The process has to be equal from every group because if you are not asking it from one group, why do you need to ask another group for it,’” she said.
Frank Garcia, chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce cut into the interview and said the deal may not be done.
“I just spoke to the mayor and now, they are not sure. They say one thing and do another,” Garcia said.When The Epoch Times called the SBS, Merideth Weber of SBS declined to comment and instead sent an emailed response. “SBS has been, and continues to work with the Hispanic community to make the M/WBE application process as simple as possible, and to address any concerns,” the email said.
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