Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Small Business Sham

In this week's Village Voice, the paper's Wayne Barrett devastates the Bloomberg record on women and minority-owned businesses, with a full evaluation of the shameful record of Commissioner Rob Walsh. The context of the article is the record percentages of voters Bloomberg achieved among Blacks and Hispanics, and the meager results of programs touted by Bloomberg during his 2005 campaign: "These signature programs—touted in the campaign's radio and television ads—have since disappeared from both the public's consciousness and the mayor's agenda. Bloomberg issued a "Campaign Accountability Report" last year, claiming success in 96 of the 100 promises he'd made in 2005. That list of campaign pledges did not include the MWBE or construction- apprenticeship initiatives."

This shouldn't really surprise anyone, since Walsh's agency has never done a damn thing for small and minority business and, on the contrary, has been the active catalyst for their demise-witness the SBS role in the eviction of the merchants from the Bronx Terminal Market, and his midwifing of IKEA to the detriment of the retailers in Sunset Park. And as far as Bloomberg is concerned, Black and Hispanic businesses are expendable, just ask all of those firms at Willets Point that the mayor's looking to give the heave-ho to.

Of course, as we have commented, all of this has not really been scrutinized by a supine press. As Barrett points out quoting Freddy Ferrar: "Ferrer, who dropped out of politics and now works for a private public-relations firm, tells the Voice that these programs "are only successful in the eyes of the initiator." The former Bronx borough president insists that "if it were anyone else, there would be much more accountability on these promises," and he also decries the media "quiescence" that has selectively protected the Bloomberg administration. "I have never seen it so still," he says, contrasting the media's lack of penetrating questions about Bloomberg's second-term record with the coverage of his three immediate predecessors: Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Ed Koch."

Our problem with this transcends the contracting charade and Walsh's evident obsession with his soft ball team. The tone and tenor of the Bloomberg administration was set in 2002 when the Fernandez brothers were by-passed by Dan Doctoroff on the Bradhurst project in Harlem for his friend Steve Ross, Since then, the Related Company and Vornado Realty have been living large, with no attempt to reach out to qualified minority firms.

But why should Bloomberg when existing minority businesses are being trampled by the mayor's development policies? Here' the money quote: "Robert Walsh, who has run SBS since Bloomberg took office, conceded during a three-hour Voice interview that he hasn't had a single meeting with the mayor to discuss the MWBE program since the new law went into effect in late 2005. He also acknowledged that, from the beginning of the administration, his conversations with Bloomberg about aiding small businesses "had not been focused on gender or race." Asked if they'd ever had a conversation in which Bloomberg gave him "a sense of how important an MWBE program was to him," Walsh replied: "I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth. I can't remember a conversation like that."

Hats off to Barrett. As we have said, the real hard looks at Bloomberg have started to come, and this Voice piece, coming as it does from one of the mayor's staunchest defenders, is truly devastating, Councilman James Sanders' commentary on Walsh's failures to achieve anything positive for minority contractors should serve as an epitaph for Bloomberg's appear to be good administration: "He contends that the failure of SBS "to enforce the rule of law and economic justice as far as MWBEs are concerned is at best a dereliction of duty, and at worst a failure of character."