Saturday, June 15, 2024

Black and brown communities being shut out of Neon project?


Louie Overstreet

The highly-publicized Neon construction project has been awarded to Kiewit, a Utah company.

At more than a half-billion dollars, this project is located in (and adjacent) to black and brown communities in Las Vegas. It is expected to cause insufferable construction and traffic headaches for over three years.

And guess what? As of the writing of this column, not one minority-owned company is going to work on the project. The Nevada of Department of Transportation (NDOT) set a participation goal at a ridiculously low 3.5%; Kiewit’s participation plan lists five firms. I had to file a freedom of information request to get the names of the five firms it will be using to meet the goal.

I went to the Nevada Secretary of State website and the firms listed are all white Disadvantaged Enterprises. One is out of Utah, two are white females, and the other two I could not find where they had current Nevada business licenses.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that NDOT Office of Civil Rights/Contract Compliance has been a complete joke for years. In this regard, I know two things: black and brown politicians do not have the economic or political power to demand participation on the project; and two disparity studies have been conducted to document the complete ineffectiveness of NDOT’s enforcement program.

Therefore, firms of color are going to miss another economic opportunity in the heart of our communities.

Thus, the only thing within my power was writing to the United States Department of Transportation and requesting a federal investigation into how this project was awarded. I wanted to determine why NDOT is such inept at setting and enforcing participation goals for Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs).

I suggested that an investigation seek answers to 11 questions. Space limitations only allow me to list three here:

• Why has NDOT failed to implement the modest recommendations contained in disparity studies it funded in 2007 and 2013?

• What levels of funding have been provided by NDOT in the past three fiscal years to perform outreach services and training programs?

• Do the annual reports required to be submitted by NDOT to the Federal Government reveal a pattern of historical underutilization of MBEs?

Oh, my earlier blanket indictment of politicians of color does not include Assembly members Dina Neal and Irene Bustamante. They are fighting the good fight whenever possible.

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