Tuesday, June 5, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Renteria opposes contract award to contractor who used racial slur

City Council Member Pio Renteria says he will oppose the awarding of a city road maintenance contract to a firm whose president used a racial slur at a Travis County-sponsored meeting last month.

According to a memorandum Capital Contracting Officer Rolando Fernandez Jr. wrote on Monday, Aaron Concrete submitted the lowest bid to replace two brick intersections along East Seventh Street. Because the bid conformed to procedure, staff is recommending that Council award the $325,000 contract to the firm at the June 14 Council meeting.

However, Fernandez also pointed to an Austin Monitor story that reported Aaron Concrete head Aaron Cabaza’s remarks last month at a Travis County-sponsored forum where county staff, contractors and labor groups discussed proposed county rules that would strengthen protections for workers on county-funded projects.

At that meeting, Cabaza referred to construction workers as “wetbacks,” an offensive term used to derogatorily describe immigrants from Mexico.

Cabaza, who is himself Latino, subsequently apologized to the participants in the forum, county staff and the Commissioners Court.

That contrition did not move Renteria, who on Monday said, “Aaron Cabaza’s remarks were unacceptable and inconsistent with the values of our city.”

He added that he plans on pulling the contract award for discussion at Council’s June 14 meeting.

“What comes of that discussion I can’t say, but I won’t be voting to give the contract to Aaron Concrete – that’s for sure,” Renteria concluded.

The scope of the project calls for replacing brick pavers at East Seventh and Chicon and Calles streets with concrete colored to match the appearance of the bricks. Both intersections are partially or wholly in Renteria’s District 3. The northern side of East Seventh and Chicon is in Council Member Ora Houston’s District 1. Houston was not available for comment on Monday.

Cabaza did not respond to a request for comment either.

If Council ends up rejecting Aaron Concrete’s bid for the project, staff will begin a brand-new solicitation process. Only one other firm submitted a proposal to do the work the first time around. Muñiz Concrete’s offer was $77,000 higher than Aaron Concrete’s.

The brick pavers were originally installed as part of the East Seventh Corridor Improvements Project, a major face-lift of the roadway between between Navasota Street and Pleasant Valley Road.

Shortly after work on that project finished in 2011, the city discovered deficiencies that led to uneven street surfaces. In 2016, the Public Works Department provided a temporary fix ahead of the planned repaving effort.

The funding for the repaving will come from the $425,000 settlement the city obtained from the original project’s contractor and design engineer.

Photo by John Flynn.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Pio Renteria: The Austin City Council member for District 3

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