June 19, 1998

Denver Council Members Blast Affirmative Action Proposal

DENVER (AP) - A proposal to reduce the city's minority contracting goals has caused some City Council members to worry the plan would hurt minority general contractors.

Under pressure from the courts, Denver is considering reducing its goals for minority subcontractors on construction contracts from 16 percent to 10 percent. The goal for women-owned contractors would drop from 12 percent to 10 percent.

The proposal also would bar minority and women general contractors from counting themselves in meeting those subcontracting percentages.

``Without any question, this is a war,'' Councilman Hiawatha Davis said Tuesday.

Richard O'Brecht, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, said white-owned construction companies will stop giving part of their city contracts to minority partners if the law is changed.

``All those joint ventures will go away,'' he said. ``You will force every minority general contractor to become a minority subcontractor.''

``It's going to be devastating,'' said Bob Jackson, an African-American general contractor. ``You'll have, for the most part, put us out of business. We'll have to go back to our pickup trucks and wheelbarrows, and forget all about the commercial side.''

Jackson said his company is too small to be considered as a joint venture partner without Denver's law. Financing, bonding, insurance and supplier prices are all problems, he said.

Another proposed change in the law would force companies to give Denver information about all their subcontracting with minorities, not just their performance on city contracts.

Denver is the only city in the metro area with rules for minority subcontracting, O'Brecht said. Extra paperwork, along with Denver's history of paying late, causes some contractors to stop bidding on city jobs, he said.