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St. Louis County Council Considers Minority Participation Legislation

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council is considering a series of bills aimed at giving minorities and women more opportunities to work on county projects. 

Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, introduced several bills on Tuesday aimed at increasing minority participation on certain projects. The bills have the support of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Among other things, Erby’s bills would set up workforce guidelines for construction projects of $1 million or more. It stipulates that the labor force on construction projects should consist of at least 15 percent minorities and 5 percent women. It would also set a goal of having 10 percent of St. Louis County residents working on a construction project.

Erby’s bills also deal with minority participation for county procurement contracts. It would also set up an Office of Diversity Programs to sharpen the county’s outreach to minorities.

“I think these bills go a long way in leveling the playing field for minority and women owned businesses and workforce inclusion,” Erby said in a statement.

County Executive Dooley told reporters on Tuesday that his administration has strived to include minorities and women on major projects. When asked why had waited until now for these ordinances, Dooley – who is facing a competitive re-election battle this year – said: “We have always been on the forefront. But what we’re doing now is institutionalizing it.”

“I’m the county executive of St. Louis County. I’m a minority. I’m an African-American. Why would I not do this? Why would it not be a part of who I am?” said Dooley. “This is a part of my values system. I’ve always done this. Here is an opportunity now at the right time to do it and institutionalize it and make it a value for the entire county.”

“You could always say ‘well you should have did it three years ago or four years ago.’ But the key is we’re doing it now,” he added.

Erby’s bill received support on Tuesday from St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt. Pruitt – who was involved in efforts to enact minority and female workforce standards for the Metropolitan Sewer District – said Erby’s bill would place the county in line with other urban jurisdictions such as the city of St. Louis and Jackson County, Missouri.

“We’re just glad to see that the council is seriously considering legislation that would bring the county in line with the other major economic engines of the state,“ Pruitt said.

The council is expected to consider Erby’s bills over the next few weeks. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.