Columbus City Council will resume face-to-face public meetings on Monday for the first time since COVID-19 precautions forced them online in March 2020, but do so with limited public seating while also urging residents to provide online testimony on non-zoning issues submit.
Only 20 members of the public will be admitted to the 5pm meetings with council members and staff to ensure adequate social distancing in the council chambers. Additional limited seating is available in an adjacent conference room. Those who are not vaccinated are asked to wear a mask.
“The council has switched to virtual meetings to continue public affairs at the height of the pandemic,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin in a prepared statement. “When the ‘Volkshaus’ reopens, we will work with our local health authorities to ensure the safety of residents and staff.”
Columbus City Council will continue to livestream meetings
The city council will continue to broadcast the meetings on the city’s YouTube channel and Facebook Live, and provide online public testimonies on regular agenda items, with the exception of zoning issues. However, the council urges residents to provide the town clerk with a written testimony for or against a regulation rather than attending in person.
Written testimony must be received by 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting by email to [email protected]. Testimony can also be sent to the Columbus City Council e.g. Handbook: City Clerk Speaker Testimony, 90 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215. Residents should include their contact information and ordinance number on their statement.
Residents who want to speak in person or online must fill out an electronic speaker slip on the day of the meeting between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and hand it in, stating whether the request should be made in person or via WebEx. To access the fully completed form, visit www.columbus.gov/council/information/Online-Speaker-Slip/. The Council does not accept incomplete speeches.
Residents who want to comment on zoning issues must also submit application forms for approval on the day of the council meetings before 3 p.m., as they must be sworn in to testify in person if the council breaks into the affairs of the regional planning committee at 6 p.m. 30 o’clock
For more information on speaking at city council meetings, please visit: https://www.columbus.gov/council/toolkit/rules-for-Speaking-at-city-council/.
Directing more city contracts to companies owned by women and minorities
Among the agenda items on Monday, the city council will vote on laws aimed at channeling more city contracts to companies owned by women and minorities.
A 2019 study, for which the city paid California-based Mason Tillman Associates, found significant differences between minorities and women competing for urban development and professional services.
According to a summary attached to the bill on its agenda for Monday, the city plans to set up a program to provide qualified women and minority-owned businesses to:
- A “Professional Services Incentive Credit” of 5 percentage points for competitive scoring proposals for main contracts.
- A “bid discount” of 5% up to $ 50,000 on construction, goods and service contract bid amounts making it more likely that you will be the low bidder while holding contract amounts at full bids.
- Demand that all “informal offers” include representation of women and minority-owned companies and small businesses wherever possible.
In addition, a race- and gender-neutral “Protected Market Program” for locally run small businesses will restrict competition to help them obtain prime contracts. The executive summary states that proprietary marketing programs used by other cities and states set aside certain contracts that only pre-certified companies can bid to ensure that qualified bidders receive exclusive rights to apply for certain work.
Small businesses also do not have performance guarantees for construction and service contracts under $ 100,000.
“All departments must identify protected market contracts during the annual budget process and submit quarterly projections to the Diversity and Inclusion Office,” the executive summary said. “All new formal construction projects worth less than $ 100,000 will be reserved for SLBEs.”
The summary defines an SLBE, or Small Local Business Enterprise, as an operation with revenues less than $ 1 million per year and independently owned by a person with a net worth of less than $ 1 million.
Minority-owned and women-owned businesses are defined as companies that are at least 51% owned by “African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian-American, or women” located in the Census Bureau’s Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area of Franklin and seven surrounding counties.
The stated goal of the new program is that minority-owned companies receive 25% of the city’s service contracts and 19% of construction contracts, while women-owned companies receive 19% and 11%, respectively. There is no stated objective in the small business summary.
Both City Council President Shannon Hardin and Mason Tillman CEO Eleanor Mason Ramsey said last month they were confident the recommendations could withstand any challenge in the legal system where racial public procurement programs have been scrutinized.
In May 2020, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther used emergency powers granted himself to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to order the implementation of a protected market program to direct more city contracts to women and minority vendors.
Ginther has commissioned the “Cross-Industry To Maximize Procurement” program based on a “disparity study” commissioned by the city and completed last summer.
The mayor’s order also waives liability requirements for contracts under $ 50,000 and introduces an owner-controlled insurance program to reduce premiums for contractors. It requires that large contracts be unbundled into smaller contracts, the appropriate trades identified for each, size constraints developed, and payment procedures streamlined to give minority and women’s companies “the liquidity they need to keep business going.”
It was unclear whether the new programs presented to the city council would have any impact on Ginter’s appointment. No one answered the phone or returned a message on Friday afternoon at the city’s Diversity and Inclusion Office, which manages the programs.
A group of companies vowed last year to fight Ginter’s order if it includes a construction contract closure program.
“When you put something aside, you take away from someone else,” said Richard Hobbs, president of the Central Ohio Associated General Contractors. “If you try to do that, you will find yourself in a situation where you will likely face a lawsuit.”
Hobbs could not be reached on Friday about the proposed measure in front of the city council.