San Antonio/ Retail & Industry
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Published on June 12, 2024
San Antonio Encounters Legal Headwinds in Affirmative Action Practices for Procurement amid Nationwide DebateSource: Unsplash/ Tingey Injury Law Firm

The ongoing battles over affirmative action in procurement have struck Bexar County, where national discourse intersects with local efforts to achieve economic balance. San Antonio's software company, DigitalDesk Inc., led by white male owner Greg Gomm, sued Bexar County for what he claims was discriminatory prioritization in federal pandemic aid grants. As San Antonio Report details, their lawsuit was dismissed after a judge ruled Gomm lacked standing, failing to file the needed paperwork.

An appeal is in the works, backed by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. "It's just a matter of time" before one of the cases reaches the Supreme Court, Dan Lennington, their lawyer, remarked to the San Antonio Report. Their objective: dismantle race-based preferences nationwide. Simultaneously, San Antonio's initiative to recalibrate its race-conscious scoring system for city contracts has been stalled, possibly in response to the judicial climate.

This legal pushback arrives amid a prospective windfall of federal funds slated for local development projects, including San Antonio's $2.5 billion airport redevelopment. The factors influencing contract awards, including race and gender, have long been utilized in an attempt to level the playing field for minority-owned businesses. According to San Antonio Report, Neel Lane, who has defended civil rights causes and represented the county and LiftFund, criticized a recent Supreme Court ruling that he believes prompted a wave of challenges to such affirmative action policies.

San Antonio, historically an advocate for race-conscious contracting since 1989, has observed significant growth in contracts awarded to small, minority- and women-owned businesses; over half of the city's contracts, amounting to approximately $330 million, reached 517 businesses in 2023 alone. But as the city's disparity studies suggest advances, calls grow to pivot from race and gender points in favor of a broader approach. Assistant City Manager Alex Lopez is quoted in the San Antonio Report, emphasizing a need to help businesses grow "regardless of race."

The city’s shift to assisting all small businesses has proponents and critics alike. While some argue that progress for minority businesses is attributed to the race-conscious points system, others suggest that obstacles exist well ahead of the selection process. Efforts, now led by former mayor Henry Cisneros, aim to streamline barriers to competition, such as standardizing procurement procedures and bolstering the certification agency. As relayed by the San Antonio Report, these adaptations aim to sustain the economic growth achieved through decades worth of affirmative action policies, despite the current legal debates.