In my role as the OhioMBE Publisher, I find the situation regarding Columbus City Schools’ (CCS) procurement practices particularly concerning, especially as they ask the community to support a tax levy. Before we dig deep into our pockets, we must question the fairness and inclusion in the district’s contracting processes.
Is it the vendor registration process, which demands general liability insurance and a current W-9, that’s preventing CCS from partnering with Black vendors? These requirements are restrictive and they can be particularly challenging for small and minority businesses to meet, thereby limiting the pool of potential vendors.
Beyond the bureaucracy, it’s worth investigating whether there is a deeper institutional issue. Is the administration and the elected board genuinely committed to purchasing inclusion? All too often, legislation reaches the elected board without featuring any Black vendors, raising questions about their priorities. Even more astonishing is the admission from some board members that they do not even read the legislation they vote on. The question begs to be asked: Why does the board approve such legislation in the first place? How can we talk about inclusion and fairness when our elected officials are not fully engaged in the process?
The concern stretches to the workplace culture within the business side of CCS. Are staff members bringing biases into their roles, consciously or unconsciously sidelining Black vendors? There are troubling reports that Black vendors are denied walkthroughs on construction sites, while their white counterparts are given preferential treatment thanks to “connections” within departments.
CCS is predominantly a Black school district, making the marginalization of Black vendors even more perplexing and unacceptable. The elected board and CCS are asking the community to endorse a tax hike. What concrete steps are they taking to level the playing field for Black vendors?
Until these questions are satisfactorily answered, it is difficult to advocate for a tax levy that doesn’t seem to serve the interests of the entire community, including its Black vendors.
just my thoughts…rwb