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( – When New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Thursday (Oct. 15) that he planned to fund a study of racial disparities in the award of lucrative city contracts, it sent shockwaves through the minority-owned-business community.

The response was particularly keen among members of The Collaborative, a group of black business owners that has long pushed for such a study. “The Collaborative is very proud and appreciative of Mayor Landrieu and his administration for honoring his promise to get this Disparity Study on the budget,” said Iam Tucker, a Collaborative member who owns a civil engineering firm. “This study will take some time, but it is time well spent addressing the inequities that Afro-American citizens of New Orleans have been enduring.”

Landrieu included $500,000 for the study in his 2016 budget, which he presented to the City Council this morning.

For years, many black business owners have complained that they feel shut out of the city’s public procurement process, despite a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program that requires 35 percent of big public contracts to go to certified DBE firms. Although many DBEs are owned by racial minorities, the program is nominally race-neutral, open to anyone who can demonstrate that they are “socially and economically disadvantaged.” As a result, some DBE firms are owned by white women or partnerships that include white shareholders.

Read more here.

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