The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has turned down a tough program designed to encourage minority businesses to seek county contracts in favor of a much weaker program drawn up largely by the county Chamber of Commerce.
Unlike the original proposal by the county staff, the program approved by the supervisors Monday contains no targets for minority participation in county contracts, it does not set any procedures to make sure that the minority firsm actually are controlled by minorities, nor does it encourage creation of minority joint ventures.
The board action came a week after U.S. District Court Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. ruled that the county had discriminated against blacks and other minorities in hiring. Bryan's decision did not relate to the issue of minority businesses.
The chamber-drafted program for minorities is mainly educational, and it covers all small businesses, whether or not they are controlled by racial minorities or women.
County staff members decided to accept the chamber's plan when it became apparent that the staff proposal was losing key support with the Board of Supervisors.
Last January, about the same time that the chamber was raising objections against the targeted goals and other features of the original plan, Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) began making some of the same objections.
This week, Moore reiterated those views. Moore, who said she was acting independent of the chamber, contended that goals or quotas for awarding contracts to minority firms were unnecessary in Fairfax County because "you only go into goals or quotas if you have deep-seated problems, such as discrimination in hiring. There is no evidence of discrimination in purchasing on the county level."
Under the original plan, Moore said, "you would be introducing favoritism into the minds of people doing the purchasing or contracting. . . I felt very uncomfortable with the whole thing."
Chamber president Florence E. Townsend, a vice president of United Virginia Bank, wrote County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert in January that "targets . . . are quotas disguised and we oppose them."