Courtland V. Cox, who sat behind his desk at 916 G. St. eating sunflower seeds during a recent four-hour interview, said: "Those top city officials who believe they cannot meet the goal of providing minorities with 25 percent of the city's contracting dollars should seriously evaluate their positions in city government."
The newly appointed acting director of the Minority Business Opportunity Commission pointed to the mayor's recent "house cleaning" in the city housing department, where a number of top officials were replaced, and noted that "no one in city government is indispensible."
Cox, who comes to the commission as a respected trouble-shooter for the Barry Administration, said he does not plan any major action until he has done his homework.
"I am not going up against any department heads until I know the system. They won't beat you on racism, they wil. beat you using the system," he said.
Barry formally introduced Cox last week at a meeting with about 50 minority businessmen.
Administration officials say Cox was appointed after Barry discovered he had not only inherited an embarrassingly poor city record for minority contracting, but that the MBOC -- the District watchdog agency for minority contracting -- was a "paper tiger."
Cox, who was born in Harlem and raised in Trinidad, has no formal experience in city contracting, but several observers say he is trusted by Barry and other high-level officials. These officials, including Ivanhoe Donaldson, the mayor's general assistant, said they respect Cox's ideas and his reputation for getting the job done.
"Courtland has some good ideas," Donaldson in a recent interview. "The mayor put him there because he feels Courtland will do a good job."
Cox, a 34-year-old activist, who has traded his dashiki for a three-piece suit, said that he sees very little difference between the work of his protest days in the 1960s and his new job as acting director of the MBOC.
"Before, I was always telling government what should be. Now, I'm telling government agencies what must be," he said.
Cox, who has known the mayor for more than 10 years, said he plans to "learn how the system works, dismantle it and implant a new one."
The new director, who is married and has one daughter, was secretary general for the Sixth Pan Africa Conference in Tanzania in 1974 and worked with Stokely Carmichael in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s. He also has operated a small book store which had administration staff member Donaldson on its board of directors. The book store, called the Drum and Spear, has gone out o business.
Although Cox admits he knows very little about city contracting procedures, he said he plans to learn that process in the next 60 days and "know which buttons to push."
"Our basic objective is to make sure resources are equitably shared among people who live in the community without regard to race or sex...," he said. "What we can do is limited, but it is our responsibility to make a change."
He added that he intends to "simplyfy and regularize" city contracting procedures.
Since Barry has taken office, Cox said agency heads are now responding to his requests for information, which rarely happened during the previous administration.
Just recently, Cox, said, the MBOC received $120,000 in federal funds to assist minority contractors and more money is expected in the 1980 budget.
The new director said he believes one way he can improve the performance of the city in minority contrancting is by extending the bidding period from 30 to 60 days and by giving minorities advance notice of "contracts that are coming down the tubes."
"Our first job is to make sure the marketplace is open to minorities. We are going to take off restraints such as bonding and whatever, and develop support types of services."
Cox said he plans to make sure minorities get their share of city contract dollars when the convention center is built next year by wroking with the General Services Department and with minority contractors to find out which contracts should be set aside in the sheltered bidding market for minorities and by determining the fields minorities can participate in.
"If there are instances where minorities do not have companies currently working, we are going to encourage minorities to develop businesses in these areas and we are going to urge them to become involved in joint ventures with larger firms," he said.
The new MBOC chief also said he plans to pinpoint the key decision akers in each city contracting agency and make them responsible for providing MBOC with current minority contracting figures.
"This process should soon become a simple mathematical computation, he added.
The mayor, in last week's meeting with minority businessmen, said he expects the city government as well as minority businessmen to make sacrifices.
"Our decisions are going to be tough, but so are yours," Barry said. "Many of you will have to begin to analyze how you can pool your resources and become part of joint ventures."
And Cox emphasized that the contracting plan will not be a welfare program.
"We will open the door," he said, "but we are not going to hold any hands."