By Jim Schutze
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By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
No minority person showed up with money, Allen says. "We jumped through a lot of hoops. Investment opportunities were provided for minority investors in this project, but they were not taken.
"So I guess to the extent that equity means an opportunity to invest in a project, as in capital to purchase equity, that opportunity was provided but not taken advantage of."
What is Allen then to conclude? A powerful local politician tells Allen he's not interested in jobs. Jobs suck. He wants "minority investment opportunities." Allen is not sure what that even means, but he tries to provide something anyway. But no minority investor shows up to invest.
The politician leading the charge, meanwhile, continues to talk about "equity" and "minority investment opportunities" that apparently don't involve money. So what do they involve?
Give me a break. Tonight, try something for me, will you? Go into the corner convenience store and tell the newly minted American citizen behind the cash register with the .38 in his waistband that you'll be paying with intellectual capital. Hope I see you around again.
The thinly veiled threat in all of this is that Allen is going to be identified as some kind of racist. Two years ago the NCTCOG, which holds the purse strings on a lot of state and federal money, demanded that Allen provide a list of all of his own employees broken down by name, ethnicity and gender. Which he did.
Michael Morris, transportation director of the NCTCOG, told me the demands made on The Allen Group were in keeping with "standard practices in the region and federal requirements that we're under."
Maybe. When I asked other local and state units of government if they ever make similar demands of potential contractors, I got mixed results. The Texas Department of Transportation told me it absolutely does not. Frank Librio, a spokesman for Dallas City Hall, said the city does require companies who want to do business with the city to list their employees by ethnicity but "does not require vendors to sell equity shares as a condition of selection for contracts."
I asked Morris to show me one thing in the NCTCOG's charter that would authorize it to pressure a recipient of public funds to sell shares of itself to anyone. I did not hear back on that particular request.
The Allen Group had never done government work before coming here, Allen says, so it had never been required to keep records of the ethnicity of its subcontractors. It had operated mainly in the Central Valley of California in communities that are Latino-majority. Allen tells me virtually all of the subs his company uses in California are Latino.
More to the point, Allen sent Senator West a list of references including minority political leaders, some of whom West knows, with an implicit invitation to ask the people on the list if they consider Allen to be a racist or know him to operate his business in a way that discriminates against minorities.
In all the veiled accusations Price has made, I have heard nothing about Allen's references. If Price had been able to coax even a single negative word out of anybody, I think we would have heard it loud and clear.
I have negotiated for a week with Senator West's assistant, Kelvin Bass, for some kind of response or clarification, but have heard nothing from the senator in time for this article.
In the much disputed bridge project on Wintergreen Road in the City of Hutchins—held up by Commissioner Price because he said he was afraid The Allen Group would not include enough minorities—The Allen Group was responsible for engineering and design, not construction. Its minority participation goal for the project, which Allen says he exceeded, was 55 percent.
The NCTCOG's own minority participation goal for projects it oversees is 13 percent. When the bridge finally was built, the construction contractor was Austin Bridge and Road, Inc., a division of Austin Industries, whose longtime second-generation CEO (now retired), William T. Solomon, has been (as was his father) an influential business leader in Dallas for decades, a key member of the private and influential Dallas Citizens Council and a member of the board of directors of the Belo Corporation.
What was Austin Bridge's stated minority participation goal in the $6 million construction project for the Wintergreen bridge? 4.9 percent.
Price and the NCTCOG said nothing about Austin Bridge's measly showing. Not a peep.
I asked Richard Allen to characterize this overall situation, to tell me what he thinks it means. He declined. He said he'd leave that to me and my readers.
OK, readers. Let's try. Here is my metaphor:
Allen is the captain of a huge oil tanker in the Middle East. Some guys in a speedboat have just pulled up, climbed up over the stern and are approaching with machine guns, angrily shouting, "Equity! Equity!"
I'm afraid I already know what my own next move would be. Promote the first mate to captain, give him my hat and jump. But I have to hand it to Allen. So far he's still on deck with the hat on.