Friday, December 22, 2006

Detroit ignores voters...

City of Detroit has decided the hell with the voters, we won't do it!

Detroit: Race ban won't change its rules

Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- The state's largest city has no immediate plans to stop giving favor to businesses owned by minorities and women, despite the state ban on racial and gender preferences that begins Saturday.

Detroit gives extra points to minority- and female-owned companies when assessing bids for city contracts. Those efforts to encourage diversity will continue beyond Saturday, said Matt Allen, a spokesman for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The city will not be violating the state law, Allen said Thursday, because city officials believe affirmative action is a federal issue, not a state one.

"The mayor believes this will eventually be settled in federal court, where it belongs and where it will be clarified," Allen said. "He believes the states cannot just opt out."

On the eve of Proposal 2's implementation, Detroit joins a growing list of communities, universities -- and even state government -- that are not planning to alter their policies by Saturday.

"I'm not anticipating any changes to state government," said Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "We are still in the fact-finding mode and we are still assessing the impact of Proposal 2. We will be awaiting that review."

Two days after Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 by 58 percent, Granholm ordered the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to review state programs for compliance with Proposal 2. She gave the commission 90 days.The amendment to the Michigan Constitution, however, takes effect on the 46th day after the election -- Saturday.

Legal exceptions were granted to the University of Michigan and Wayne State and Michigan State universities, which together won a court motion to delay the impact of the proposal until July 1 for admissions and financial aid. That's when their current admissions and financial aid cycles are completed.

U-M and MSU officials have said they will not eliminate their affirmative action programs in hiring because they are required under the federal government, they say.

One of the state programs that has been called into question is a Michigan Department of Transportation's contracting policy that sets aside about 10 percent of its highway work for companies owned by women and minorities.

Affirmative action foes have challenged that program saying it goes beyond what the law actually requires. However, transportation officials have said the program is a federal requirement.

"Federal guidelines mandated that we have a disadvantaged business program in place in order to get federal money," said Bill Shreck, MDOT spokesman. "That's $750-$800 million that comes to Michigan for roads. The state's road system would be hard pressed to be the backbone of the economy without that money."

Some Michigan cities are making steps toward change.

Grand Rapids identified 13 programs or practices and seven city policies that will change. City Manager Kurt Kimball said the city will still strive for diversity but within the confines of the law.

The city of Lansing has asked a court -- so far unsuccessfully -- for more time to implement Proposal 2, fearing they won't be in compliance by Saturday.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said he convened a team of city employees to evaluate the amendment's impact on city programs immediately after the election. The city has special programs in minority and women contracting.

"They've been working feverishly and it became clear that we were not going to meet the Dec. 23 deadline," Bernero said. "You would have to hire, on a consulting basis, an entire law firm" to make the date.

Kilpatrick directed the city's law department to research the impact of the ban; that review has not yet been completed, Allen said. Detroit has no plans to ask for a delay.

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