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MWBE legislation is going to change job creation in NYS

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:28 p.m.

"There will be penalties if companies willfully or deliberately ignore the regulations. And in addition, when public authorities engage in procurement, there is a staff member that should be designated to become aware to monitor diversity compliance in the process."

But then there's the age-old question: Who will monitor the monitors?

"If we pass the legislation and I sign it, it is now the law," assured Paterson. "If Giuliani came in, let's say he became the governor [and he tried to change it], he would be breaking the law. So what a new governor would have to do is pass legislation to eliminate [the law], and I don't think that would be possible."

The AmNews asked if he had experienced any resistance to the introduction of his new legislation.

"Oh no, not yet. There are agencies that perform so well that they don't need to be monitored, and then there are agencies that have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century, even before the 21st century."

What about elected officials with visions of a conservative-tinged, anti-affirmative action lilt complaining about big government?

"When we come close to passing this legislation, we will find out," Paterson conceded. "I have a feeling that Republicans and Democrats were so embarrassed when we exposed New York's discriminatory procurement policies, I think that they recognize that there it has to be whole culture change. In other words, as governor, I've been able to make a culture change, but when I'm gone, it has to be institutionally supported, and I think that everyone understands that.

"I think the other thing that will make this whole thing appealing to upstate legislators is that the diversity is also geographic, and the upstate business community feels that previous governors have ignored them. So this will not just be a MWBE proposal, it will really be a proposal that will be forcing the state to pay more attention to companies that have been ignored. And shockingly, some of those were upstate companies run by white men.

"They are not MWBEs. They are not included in the way the legislation is written, but I'm saying that our small business task force was showing that a lot of the white businesses were being forced out of the process. So I think this will help us get support for the legislation, because what was really wrong--it wasn't racism--it was [the practice of agencies] continuing to do business with the same companies. The whole state had changed and none of these new companies were getting any opportunity to work with the state."

Can you legislate a culture change? And get Jamal in, as opposed to that old-money set with old habits and etched-in-stone prejudices?

Paterson said that in the legislation there will be annual reports that count how much business companies and agencies do with minority- and women-owned businesses.

He noted that at the onset, "We paid a lot of money to do a diversity study to have people come in and go over everybody's record. Now the records will be available so you can see the process every year and the legislators who are standing up for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and women will know if they're not getting fair treatment. One of the problems that we had was that when I came in with Spitzer, it took a while to establish how bad it was so that we can legally start making changes. And now we won't have that problem any more."