Detroit City Ordinance May Affect Black Contractors

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by Iman Milner

November 16, 2023

Black contractors in Detroit worry that city leaders have already proven to not have their best interest at heart.

The Metro-Detroit Black Business Alliance held a press conference on Nov. 14, publicly opposing a city council ordinance they claim could negatively affect Black contractors, specifically those based in the city. The group’s president and CEO, Charity Dean, argued that the proposed plan would grant suburban companies priority in landing big contracts, Fox 2 reports.

“What that ordinance stood to do is absolutely change the way in which the city does procurement the way it does it’s spending when it comes to contractors,” she said. Dean also claims that the council failed to honor an agreement that prohibits passing ordinances that may largely affect local Detroit residents without community involvement.

“The changes would give large suburban contractors priority over Detroit-based contractors,” she said. “In October of 2020 [the] city council unanimously passed the Community Outreach Ordinance that requires community engagement on major decisions that impact Detroiters. This new ordinance that’s before city council received no community engagement.”

City Council President Mary Sheffield disagreed with Dean.

“This is really an employee-driven ordinance really elevating the voice of everyday workers to ensure they are properly trained, paid right, and are not subjected to unsafe working conditions,” she said. “We’re saying we’re going to incentivize your bid with the City if you invest in your employees. Again, it’s not a mandatory requirement – it’s just saying we want the lowest and most responsible bidder.” The two leaders agreed to have a sit-down to discuss how the ordinance could better serve Black-owned businesses in Detroit and keep them from being shut out of large projects. “Let’s come together,” Sheffield said. “Let’s get in a room and let’s get it done.”

Still, Black contractors worry that city leaders have already proven not to have their best interest at heart.

“This ordinance has the potential to greatly affect my business as well as my fellow contractors — by giving equalization credits that would potentially put companies outside of Detroit ahead of us,” said Joe Bowman, owner of Humble Brothers Construction.

In a city that has spent the last decade offering massive tax incentives to billionaire developers, some complain this has made areas unaffordable for many residents. Black Detroiters say they have good reason to fear this move by city officials, which is seen by some as the latest in a concerted effort to continue gentrifying the former “Black Bottom.”

RELATED CONTENT: Detroit Artists Overlooked For White International Talent For City’s Murals

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