By Ronda Watson Barber
As a Black business advocate, the ONLY Columbus School Board member who vocally and regularly speaks on legislation excluding LEDE and Black vendors is James Ragland. The other Black and Hispanic incumbents say NOTHING when Black businesses aren’t getting contracts from the district’s 2 Billion Dollar purchasing budget. Silence is acceptance! Endorsements don’t matter. Actions DO!
Michael Cole and Ramona Reyes have both been on the board for years. How has the district improved until their leadership? The academic report card is dismal. Community support is low. The two don’t question legislation that excludes LEDE businesses. Under their tenure, the district hasn’t met the board policy of spending 20 percent of purchasing dollars with certified disadvantaged businesses. Ironically, in this day job Cole is responsible for assisting Turner Construction will meeting their EDGE participation goals for a major Columbus project. Why isn’t his passion for assisting Black and disadvantaged businesses reflected in his elected role?
Why didn’t Cole and Reyes question the $2 million dollar contract a Findley firm recently received to supply water, who admitted in the Columbus Dispatch of setting up LEDE businesses in an effort to take advantage for the procurement inclusion program? They sat silient as Ragland questioned the demoted COO Maurice Oldham, who still has a six figure salary, benefits and pension after being horrible at his job of running the operations portion of the state’s largest public school system.
How and why did they get the democratic party endorsement? How have LEDE businesses faired with the two in office? Apparently the Franklin County Democratic Party doesn’t care about Black businesses either. Advocating for Black-owned businesses obviously isn’t a requirement for endorsement. At the recent OhioMBE Awards, only one elected official, aside from Columbus School Board members who attended to celebrate James Ragland’s 2020 Publisher’s Award, attended. Invitations were extended to their public relations firm. During an election year, how do thoses running for office not take the opportunity to meet and mingle with Black business owners.
The incumbents and endorsed democrats continue to talk about improving the district. The education of Black children and the economic empowerment of Black businesses MUST be the focus of our elected school board. After watching the district’s pathetic pandemic response, the lack of support for the board purchasing inclusion policy and unnecessary administrative hirings, including nepotism, there needs to be a change. A change in leadership and a change in mindset. It appears that a bunch of people in the district are living a very nice comfortable lifestyle at the expense of poor children. The babies, they are charged with educating, need a union to make sure their interests are being protected and are a priority.
Vote, not by endorsements but by actions. On this Election Day it is important to note that Malcolm X talked about economic philosophy and Black-owned businesses when he delivered “The Ballot or the Bullet” in 1964. It is still relevant today. What elected officials are looking out for Black businesses? Check it out. https://youtu.be/8zLQLUpNGsc?t=585
Just my thoughts.
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