A San Diego contractor filed suit today against Caltrans for allegedly promoting improper gender and racial quotas in awarding highway projects.
Associated General Contractors of America, represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, claims that Caltrans’ efforts to give at least 6.75 percent of project contracts to companies owned by women and three minority groups violate the state and federal constitutions.
“Government cannot have one set of rules for one group and another set of rules for another,” PLF attorney Sharon Browne said at a Sacramento press conference today. “But that is precisely what Caltrans is doing.”
More after this race-neutral jump …
The suit, filed in California’s Eastern District federal court, seeks to gut Caltrans’ 2009 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, which aims to award 13.5 percent of road work to women- and minority-owned businesses. Half of those businesses, according to the program, would be attracted through so-called race-neutral measures like department outreach. Caltrans would use “race-conscious” methods to secure the other half, specifically targeting four underrepresented groups: women of any ethnicity, African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Native Americans.
Caltrans spokesman Mark DeSio said agency officials have not seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on its merits.
Prior to launching this year’s DBE program, Caltrans had relied on race-neutral efforts to attract diverse contractors in compliance with the Ninth Circuit ruling in Western States Paving Co. v. Washington State Department of Transportation. In that case the court held that agencies could only use narrowly tailored measures to diversify contracting and even then, only if they showed that discrimination existed.
Caltrans says a 2007 study shows that women, African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Native Americans statistically were not receiving enough work but Latinos and Subcontinent Asian males were.
“The DBE attainment has been between 3 and 4.6 percent for quite some time — far short of the goal of 13.5 percent,” DeSio said in an email. “So, in an effort to boost participation, Caltrans began (on March 30) including a race-conscious goal in advertised contracts for all federally funded projects. The Federal Highway Administration supports this action.”
Ward Connerly, author of California’s race-neutralizing Prop. 209, appeared at PLF’s press conference to back the lawsuit, even though he’s not a party to it.
“Plain and simple, Caltrans is caving to identity politics,” Connerly said.
The case is Associated General Contractors of America v. California Department of Transportation.
— Cheryl Miller
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