Small businesses owned by white women are winning enough state highway business to be dropped from state programs to help “disadvantaged business enterprises,” (DBEs) according to a proposal announced this week by the state Department of Transportation.
Initiative 200 prohibits racial and gender preferences in public-works hiring, but federal affirmative-action laws continue. So megaprojects such as the Highway 99 tunnel and Sound Transit’s Link light rail, which receive federal aid, are required to set aside certain percentages of design and construction contracts for ethnic minorities and women. But a DOT statistical study, which began in 2012, found businesses owned by white women weren’t facing statistically measurable discrimination, especially in engineering jobs.
Public hearings are planned in Spokane, Tacoma and Seattle during January, before the final plan is submitted to the Federal Highway Administration.
By removing white-female-owned businesses, the state DOT could reduce its total DBE goal from 15.7 percent, to 11.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the state says it is working to provide “more teeth in contracts and more eyes on contractors,” next year, in the wake of a harsh federal report that accuses DOT of turning a blind eye to the Highway 99 tunnel contractors’ failure to employ small, minority-owned firms.