Mayor David Briley

By Rosetta Miller Perry

Sometimes it really seems elected officials just recycle the same rhetoric from year to year and administration to administration. It doesn’t take much vision to look around Nashville and see Black owned firms aren’t getting remotely close to their fair share of opportunities to participate in Nashville’s building boom. Neither are companies owned by women, or for that matter by anyone who isn’t a white male, and in most cases an older white male.

The Briley administration wants everyone to be encouraged by his rhetoric this week following the presentation of yet ANOTHER disparity study. This one was commissioned by Griffin & Strong P.C. to supposedly conduct “a comprehensive and independent review of Metro Government’s procurement process to ensure that minority-owned and women-owned firms had equal and fair access.” A bit later in his remarks the Mayor says “these results, while not surprising, are unacceptable.”

Well here’s something else Mayor: that’s far from breaking news or fresh information. You could have saved the city whatever you spent on that study and just immediately started implementing specific measures designed to deal with a problem everyone recognizes has existed for a long time, but hasn’t been addressed. We’ve been hearing about disparity studies for years, but all we ever get is nice sounding speeches, pledges that things will change, but ultimately no action.

Like the old Dionne Warwick song about “Promises, Promises,” all you get from them in the end are disappointments (the song says broken hearts, but we don’t have enough faith in any administration at this point to really take them THAT seriously). Mayor Briley later said he’s ready to move forward with 10 recommendations outlined in the report to address disparity and access, and that he’s going to present an action plan in October. We hope that he’s not only a man of his word, but one who’s going to actually do something concrete to address the problem.,

First, the Tribune would like to see some numbers presented in terms of  goals and timetables. Sure, the right-wingers will start squawking about “quotas,” but funny thing about plans, they tend not to happen without specifics in mind. Second, we’d like to see more empowerment of Black males. It’s amazing how this city has so many Black colleges, and more and more Black men with credentials, yet they still can’t seem to find their way into positions of power in anyone’s administration. That is not only unacceptable, it is a not so subtle form of employment discrimination, whether anyone in city government wants to acknowledge it or not. 

The construction issue is another sore point. It’s hard to believe there’s so few Blacks working on construction crews citywide, but just drive around and check the composition of a lot of the teams working on condos, museums, hotel buildings, you name it. Now we’re not interested in demonizing immigrants or making wild accusations, but it is odd (at best) that you don’t see more Black construction crews on these various projects, even in North Nashville.

This is a right-to-work state, so the Northeastern excuse about unions and guilds can’t be tossed out as a reason. As with anything else, people tend to hire who they know, whether it’s city government, college athletics or construction. You can be reasonably certain Vanderbilt wouldn’t have had two Black head football coaches if David Williams wasn’t in a position to hire them, and until you get more Blacks heading up construction teams and in charge of the hiring, you will continue to get these disparity studies that reinforce a reality everyone already knew existed.

We recognize it is early in the Briley administration, and we certainly agree with the substance of his remarks. But we can’t get that excited because we’ve heard it before, from previous mayors who did other disparity studies and claimed they were going to change things. Now its 2018, and we’re right back here with yet another study. 

How about this time we get some actual results, and sooner rather than later.