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Heated debate delays vote on responsible bidder law

Posted at 9:15 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 21:16:14-05

CINCINNATI – A city council member and the head of the Cincinnati NAACP accused Mayor John Cranley of lying and using scare tactics to try to delay implementation of the city’s responsible bidder law.

Cranley and City Manager Harry Black asked city council for a 90-day delay to work out concerns about its impact. But after heated debate, council didn’t take a vote Wednesday.

Responsible bidder means that contractors bidding on city work must have an apprentice training program. Proponents argue that would help more residents build stable careers for themselves. They say it's about jobs and making progress toward eliminating poverty.

But  Cranley and Black say it would make it harder for women- and minority-owned businesses, which have seen their share of city contracts climb from three percent to 17 percent in recent years, to get city contracts.

 “The women and minority businesses that are here today are about to get wiped out of city contracts,” Cranley said.

Council member Wendell Young rebuked Cranley.

 “The other thing I will tell you, Mr. Mayor, is that part of what drives this is a lack of trust on what will happen during the pause,” Young said.  

“The lack of trust, Sir, is in you.”

Talking to WCPO, the president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP, Rob Richardson, Sr., called Cranley's claim "untruthful."

“There’s no factual evidence to support that," Richardson said. "They’re trying to scare people.”

But tell that to Joe Prus, president of Prus Construction, one of the largest city contractors that hires minority companies. His non-union shop is installing fiber optic lines along Central Parkway.

But Prus said responsible bidder could quickly change that.

"It will clearly stop us from pursuing projects with the Cincinnati Water Works - stormwater projects, which is a fair amount of what we do," Prus said.

"We’ll look elsewhere.  We’ll look in Kentucky and Indiana because we are not welcome here in Cincinnati — at least on those projects."

Responsible bidder was passed five years ago and has been upheld by the courts. Richardson said it’s time to quit arguing and put it in play.

“As we see it, the law should be enforced,” he said. “It’s a law that’s been upheld by the U.S. Sixth Circuit.  So, we’ll have to see how to get it enforced like any other law.”

The lack of a vote means the issue remains on the council calendar. Meanwhile, the city administration has to begin working out the process of implementing the law when it does get passed.