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What Justifies Reverse Discrimination In Denver's Public Works Contracting?

IP-23-88 (November 1988)
Author: Paul Farley

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In Brief:

  • Denver this year renewed and expanded a 1983 law setting goals (in practice, quotas) for the share of public works contracts that will go to firms owned by minorities (25%) and women (12%).
  • But the program is vulnerable to public disapproval and judicial overturning since it fails the tests imposed by recent U.S. supreme Court and appeals court rulings.
  • There are no findings of past govermental discrimination as required by the Wygant case.
  • There are no talored remedies for sepaately wronged group as required by the Croson case.
  • The 37% set-aside does not conform with the 11% scope of relevant labor market as required by the Teamsters and Hazelwood cases.
  • Laking the above, the program smacks of a political spoils system to guarantee certain groups $600 million of work on the $1.6 billion new airport.
  • Past discrimination is a real and serious problem in Colorado, but reverse discrimination is not the answer. This plan should be rewritten to replace its crude patronage features with constitutionally valid, remedial ones.