A group of minority business persons, echoing the recent complaint of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, charged yesterday that the news media have unfairly attacked the District government's minority contracting program.
Roy Littlejohn, chairman of the group called the Coalition to Protect Black Business, said that a "pattern of unbalanced reporting . . . is having a profoundly negative impact on minority business development in this city."
Littlejohn, who heads at least two firms with city contracts, released a statement at a news conference at the Howard Inn asserting that serious efforts by black business persons "to market our capabilities through networking has been misconstrued as an attempt to gain undue political influence."
At his monthly news conference recently, Barry criticized The Washington Post for filing D.C. Freedom of Information requests seeking access to records about the minority contracting program, suggesting that it was an attempt to undermine the program.
Betti S. Whaley, president of the Washington Urban League Inc., who attended yesterday's news conference, said, "I don't see why at this stage of the game, we are having to convince anyone that minority business is good business for all of us."
"We have seen incremental gains over the last decade . . . and we ain't going to be stopped," Whaley said.
Under the District's minority contracting law, a minimum of 35 percent of city's total contracting dollars go to minority-owned firms. Barry has made the program a showpiece of his administration and has encouraged city agencies to set aside contracts for minority-owned firms whenever possible.
The program has been praised by some black leaders including Sam Tucker, executive director of the World Conference of Mayors, as a model for other cities that want to stimulate minority participation in the city contracting process.
Critics of the program, including some minority business persons, complain that the city fails to seek enough competition for contracts awarded under the program, repeatedly awards contracts to the same firms and individuals, and pays too much for some services and goods.