Walker’s measure seeks more city jobs, business for locals, minorities, women

Pine Bluff Alderwoman Thelma Walker wants local residents, minorities and women to be given “due consideration” on competitive bidding and requests for proposals on city business, and for the city to be “consistent with all federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment” by increasing the presence of minorities and women in the municipality’s workforce “while continuing the practice of hiring the most qualified applicant.”

An ordinance on the matter is being sponsored by Walker and up for its initial reading at Monday’s 5:30 p.m. city council meeting.

The proposal reads that “a resident of the city who applies for a position should, if all other factors in the hiring evaluation are equal between applicants, be hired for the position.”

The council, with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth casting the decisive vote, recently repealed previous legislation and adopted an ordinance allowing city department heads to reside within 12 miles of the city. Current administrators are exempt from the ruling.

Walker opposed that measure, sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays.

The council is considering Mays-sponsored legislation that would assess a 5 percent fee from salaries of city workers hired after Sept. 1 as a “community friendly privilege fee” in exchange for being allowed to live elsewhere. Proceeds from the assessments would be used by the city for anti-crime youth programs and drainage and sidewalk enhancements. The ordinance is due for its third and final reading and a vote Monday night.

“All city departments and agencies should adopt procedures to promote notice of the opportunity to submit competitive bids or requests for proposals to provide supplies or services to the city government,” Walker’s ordinance reads. “Procedures should be periodically reviewed to determine effectiveness by measuring distribution of contracts” to locals, minorities and women. “This review should include bid specifications, advertising methods and other contract terms in weighing effective measures to ensure city contracts are fairly awarded.”

Walker also wants the individual reviews to be subject to evaluation by the council at the request of a council member.

According to the 2010 federal census, Pine Bluff’s population is 53 percent female and 76 percent black. Whites constitute 22 percent of the population. Of business firms, 36 percent are owned by blacks and 26 percent by women.