The head of the Federal Transit Authority, Peter Rogoff, visited Portland this week. This is important because this man runs the federal agency responsible for most of the current capacity of black contractors in the Portland area. Across the country, this agency is head and shoulders of above all the other federal transportation departments. Meeting him on several occasions, you get the sense he knows what he is doing and sees the disadvantage business enterprise (DBE) program as just good business and a way to ensure all citizens benefit from economic opportunities. He seems to surround himself with competent capable people interested in serving the interest of the people the program was designed to help. His management style filters down to the local operators at TriMet which is the reason they tend to be more receptive and responsive to diversity and inclusion efforts.
That being said, blacks have a challenge in preserving the support of the agency because whites in the industry are trying to undermine this support by suggesting that blacks are getting an unfair preference in the selection process. Never mind all data that show blacks are still at the bottom of all groups used on most projects. This fact is especially true when looking at those projects that have the potential of yielding reasonable profits and industry critical jobs.
Black people should know that Mr. Rogoff was in town to hand over a check for nearly ¾ of a billion dollars, more than half the funding the Portland Milwaukie Light Rail project. Even though this project is located primarily in SE Portland, black people’s tax dollars contribute significantly to this effort. Blacks should continue to shine a light on this effort to ensure they get a reasonable return on their tax dollars in the form of contracts and jobs.