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Minority hiring rules raised at Formula 1 meeting

Thursday, November 11, 2010 by Michael Kanin

Yesterday, a representative of a local Hispanic contractors group raised the question of whether the proposed Austin Formula 1 track may be subject to the city’s minority- and women-owned business rules. In remarks made to the Water and Wastewater Commission, lobbyist Paul Saldana suggested that the city’s reimbursement of costs related to the extension of a sewer line could trigger those regulations.

 

Representatives of the Formula 1 project plan to announce today that they have hired noted local minority and women business outreach coordinator Cloteal Haynes to assist them as they move forward.

 

The sewer extension discussion at the Water and Wastewater Commission brought out a host of familiar Formula 1 opponents. The commission ultimately approved the reimbursements — which total roughly $8 million — but not before project dissenters were told again about the limits of advisory power.

 

Saldana raised the question of whether the rules apply.  “Part of … (this) is that we don’t know exactly what official role the city is going to have in this particular event,” he said. “We believe that that service extension request triggers a policy that the city enacted back in 2007 called the Third Party Agreement, which states that (when) any economic incentives or tax-payer dollars are used to support any type of development, that triggers compliance with the city’s (minority business) ordinance.”

 

He went on to say that the Formula 1 project’s outreach to the minority contracting community has been lacking. “It’s no secret – the developer has stated time and time again that construction is scheduled to begin in December,” he said. “Our concern for the last four or five months has been that a meeting with all the minority trade associations should have happened months ago. It’s too late (now).”

 

Though she didn’t speak, Austin Black Contractors Association President Carol Hadnot yielded time to Saldana.

 

Track representative Richard Suttle disputed Saldana’s accusations. “We’ve had lots of communication with lots of people both in the community and … with folks that we hope will have an opportunity to work on this project,” he said. “The project is not near as far along as you might think in terms of getting contractors in place and all that. We have met with folks – maybe we didn’t meet with all folks, but we have met with lots of folks.”

 

After the meeting, Suttle told In Fact Daily that he didn’t believe that the Third Party Agreement would affect the track itself. “We don’t think it (kicks in) on the track at all; we don’t think it has any applicability to the track,” he said. “That being said, we have a commitment to work with our consultant on the (minority and women business) procurement process.”

 

Local opponents of the project, including Roy Whaley and Chris Lehman of the Austin Sierra Club, pleaded with the commission to put up a roadblock. They were, however, sent home disappointed.

 

And for the second time in as many advisory body meetings (see In Fact Daily, Nov. 5) they listened as an appointee told them that their concern – a broader worry about the effects of the track – wasn’t being presented in the right forum. 

 

Commission Vice-Chair Gwen Webb told her colleagues that she disagreed with the notion that it was up to them to look at the bigger picture. “I think that we are the Water and Wastewater Commission and our charge is listed by statute,” she said. “I do understand what people are saying about wanting to get a hold of the whole project … but I think that … the overall decision making is for the City Council.”

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