Posted by: bkivey | 20 November 2016

Top Down Construction

In 2015 the City of Portland created the Equitable Contracting and Purchasing Commission to, according to the Mission Statement:

The Office of Equity and Human Rights provides education and technical support to City staff and elected officials, leading to recognition and removal of systemic barriers to fair and just distribution of resources, access and opportunity, starting with issues of race and disability.

The key word here is ‘distribution’, as if resources, access, and opportunity are things that are handed down from on high rather than earned.

In September The Oregonian’s Brad Schmidt published and article explaining how the Commission was unhappy with the city for failing to ensure gains by women and minorities in the construction field. It seems the percentage of non-White involvement is stagnating or slightly declining, and it’s the responsibility of city leadership to address that.

The city council set a goal of 27% participation by women and minorities on city-let contracts. The latest figures show a 30% engagement level by the target demographic. One might say the goal has been achieved. According to the US Census Bureau, non-Whites of all flavors make up about 28% of the Portland population. So proportional representation, that favorite stalking horse of the Left, has been achieved. It’s true that women make up half the population, but not every, or even most, women want construction jobs. The council has done what it was supposed to do, so everyone should pat themselves on the back and move on.

But that’s not how Progressivism works. The goal isn’t to achieve results, it’s to use a perceived problem as a way to power. And in fact that appears to be what the Commission members are doing. There’s a perception people are using the Commission as a bully pulpit to pressure city officials into allocating more money for minority outreach programs. If you look at the commission member’s biographies, most of them have spent their lives working in some sort of government programs or serving on government boards and commissions. It is quite amazing how many programs there are for people of color and women to access the building trades. And that’s just the programs these folks have been involved in. If you’re a woman or minority and want to learn a trade, there’s no lack of opportunity.

Enter Maurice Rahming. Mr. Rahming came up through the ranks as an electrician, and now owns a general contracting firm. Mr. Rahming knows as well as anyone the immediate nature of the construction industry. Deficient skills and abilities can’t be hidden. The results of incompetence range from shoddy work to death. His complaint is that too many minorities are in non-skilled rather than skilled jobs, and that the city is “denying people that pathway” if it doesn’t monitor minority participation in the building trades.

The ‘pathway’ to skilled jobs isn’t government monitoring, it’s people getting themselves to school or entering an apprenticeship to get those jobs. Sprinkled among the Commission’s member’s resumes are any number of government programs designed to get women and minorities into construction. It doesn’t appear lack of opportunity or awareness is the problem. What may be the problem is the climate of helplessness government involvement inculcates. The average person isn’t going to be motivated to improve their opportunities if they know that people will give them stuff.

Every person on the Commission knows that you don’t build a structure from the top down, but they don’t seem to realize building a society works the same way. If you want more kinds of people in a certain field, you should be motivating them from middle school on to obtain the skills they’ll need to succeed. Learning a trade is real empowerment, while expecting a bureaucratic hand gives a false sense of achievement.

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