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Black Leaders' Minority Contract Strategy Unclear 

Charlotte African-American leaders' strategy to pressure the Charlotte City Council into resurrecting a minority contract program appears, for the moment, to lack solid direction. Most sources among the city's African-American leadership seem to agree that city leaders should quickly put another program in place rather than taking six months to a year to concoct another one that might or might not stand up to legal challenges.

Where sources appear to disagree is upon what action African-American groups, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus and the local branch of the NAACP might take if the city doesn't meet their demands. Sources gave conflicting information as to whether a potential boycott of local businesses or of city contracts by minorities or minority contractors was on or off the table over the weekend. Two said that three African-American city council members might leverage their votes, which are needed to approve a new coliseum financing plan in the coming weeks. Simply put, they could vote no if demands on the minority contracting program aren't met.

The city council voted 8-3 to terminate the minority program three weeks ago. That program helps assure minority and women-owned firms a share of city contracts by mandating that 6 percent of subcontracts be set aside for women and minority contractors. A lawsuit by United Construction Company alleged that the city's Minority and Women-Owned Business Development (MWBD) program violates the US Constitution after United, the lowest bidder for the city's $2.5 million Sharon Amity/Monroe Road intersection project, didn't get the bid because it failed to subcontract 6 percent of the work to minority and women-owned businesses. The contract was awarded to a higher bidder, which cost the city an additional $165,000.

Black Political Caucus President Eric Douglas says six months to a year is too long for minority entrepreneurs to wait. The issue is a charged one for Douglas, who is rumored to be considering a run for Mecklenburg County Commission in the majority black district currently held by Democrat Darrel Williams, who would run at-large. The issue could be the one that assures enough black turnout to elect Williams at-large and guarantee Douglas a district seat.

The situation leaves no easy out for the city council, as it's likely that any new program the city devises that involves race will be struck down. Since the City of Richmond v. Croson case in 1989, not one race-based set-aside program has survived a court challenge. But if a new program doesn't involve race, there's likely to be anger in the black community. *

Speaking of Metrobeat2.html

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