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Posted at 3:50 PM ET, 05/26/2010

WSSC to examine minority contracting

By Washington Post editors

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has hired a California firm to evaluate how the water and sewer utility includes businesses owned by women and minorities when it awards contracts, the WSSC announced Wednesday.

The firm, Oakland-based Mason Tillman Associates Ltd., will analyze the utility's contracting records for fiscal years 2004 to 2009 to determine whether there were women- and minority-owned firms available to bid for jobs and how successful those companies were in clinching contracts.

The WSSC, which provides water and sewer services in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, is conducting the so-called "disparity study" as part of reconsidering its Minority Business Enterprise program. The study's findings are expected in November.

-- Katherine Shaver

By Washington Post editors  | May 26, 2010; 3:50 PM ET
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Disparity studies are typically commissioned not because the government agency involved wants to avoid discriminating, but because it wants a justification for discriminating -- i.e., for granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, and/or sex. Here's hoping that, assuming disparities are found and that they are ascribed to discrimination, that Mason Tillman recommends (as it should) race-neutral rather than race-preferential measures.

It's fine to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex. But that means no preferences because of skin color, etc. either--whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing. Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it costs the taxpayers money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and comments we submitted to the Colorado DOT here: ). Those who insist on engaging in such discrimination deserve to be sued, and they will lose.

Posted by: rclegg1 | May 26, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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