The Historic FCC Report Card Released in 2017 Gave VIA a 'C' Grade, Is It Any Better Now?
VIA Metropolitan Transit celebrated it's 40th year of service last year in April of 2018. Just shy of turning 40, in March of 2018 VIA was named the Outstanding Metropolitan Transit System in the state of Texas Transit Association.
President/CEO of VIA, Jeff Arndt said, "From 'going places' to connecting our region,' VIA has helped prove the motto: Where public transportation goes, community grows. We are proud of the positive impact we have had by opening up opportunities for education, employment, and enjoyment across the greater San Antonio areas.”
It is important to note that on March 9, 2017, The Fair Contracting Coalition released the historic report card. The Fair Contracting Coalition, founded by Mr. T.C. Calvert Sr., and comprised of community business owners and leaders, fight for fair contracting opportunities for our minority business owners in San Antonio. The report card was issued to leaders of public supported agencies based on how well they worked (if they worked at all) with small, minority, women and veteran businesses in San Antonio. While many agencies received an initial 'F' as their grade, VIA's grade was a 'C'. 'F' grades or failing grades were initially received by half or 50% of the agencies.
When the historic report card was unveiled, the agencies CEOs were mostly present. VIA's President/CEO, Jeff Arndt, was front and center at the meeting with a sense of accountability to his C grade. It was a grade that showed there was more work to do. Mr. Arndt explained at the report card meeting that he had to invest into multiple busses for the community and it was a huge investment that he believed impacted VIA's grade. Currently, Mr. Arndt has also experienced transition of employees. Hopefully VIA instills the importance of each employees' work in this San Antonio Community which demands inclusivity. We are hopeful of this outcome so VIA can raise their grade continuously as they have been over the last 2 years.
The Fair Contracting Coalition works with agencies and builds strong relationships that are mutually beneficial for both ends as well as the people. The people of this community are why this work is done. When the people are directly benefitting because of all the aforementioned and after mentioned- we see the diversity. Seeing is different than hearing. The FCC’s work is genuine and offers other agencies/businesses the opportunity to adopt VIA's (or any public agency that is doing well) minority efforts as a 'best practice'. Hopefully, VIA will comprise the steps they took to make such strides in showing their diversity in business and community for others to divulge and again- adopt. Their are many agencies right here in San Antonio whom were a no show and continue to be when it comes to being held accountable by the community. A 'no-show' to a 3 year old birthday kind of stings, ignoring your tax payers is another level of ignorance.
Each month The Fair Contracting Coalition holds a meeting with our public agencies and small business owners. Since the unveiling of the report card in March 2017, the monthly meetings have proved fruitful to where contracts are being de-bundled and black, brown, women, and veteran owned businesses are receiving more opportunities for contracts. The FCC monthly meetings create a place where small business and the understanding of diversity in public agencies through contracting and other opportunities can be discussed openly and honestly. It can sometimes get feisty in the FCC meetings, although always productive. Remember, where unlike minds meet, growth occurs.
VIA has a presence all over town in billboards, newspaper ads, etc, but as almost everyone else, they could use more work to fully seal their diversity foundation in contracting and they have committed to do so.
Over the last 2 years we have seen positive signs and actions of inclusivity from VIA. Each monthly FCC meeting is hosted by a public agency of the report card and the last meeting in July was hosted by VIA. Let us remember, very big San Antonio Public Agencies received an 'F' while VIA received a 'C'. We also know many public agencies have been 'no-shows' since the 2017 report card. VIA has showed up.
Mr. Maurice Bridges, Director of Business/Supplier Diversity & DBE Liaison Officer of the Office of Diversity & Federal Compliance for VIA Metropolitan Transit is a major asset to VIA's organization as he understands the issues and most importantly the solutions to those issues. Mr. Bridges thanked The Fair Contracting Coalition while highlighting VIAs objectives for small and minority owned businesses:
"On behalf of Mr. Jeff Arndt, President/CEO and the Executive Management Team, we are grateful that the Fair Contracting Coalition allowed VIA to host the organization’s July meeting.
It was very rewarding to showcase three of our local Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) Valla Construction Inc, Ellis Alley Exterior Renovation, Confidential Search Solutions, Staffing Support and Rx Technology, Security Cameras. Chef Don’s Catering and Blanca’s Cakes and Catering did an outstanding job preparing the box lunches and birthday cake. It was equally gratifying to see a group of new faces in attendance. Small Business Enterprises (SBE) are the backbone of the community. The importance of small business to local communities is emotionally rooted in buying and selling with friends and neighbors.
One of VIA’s key objectives is to ensure that San Antonio based firms have the maximum opportunity to compete for all contracts. This includes Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Facilities, Maintenance and Goods & Services. To help stimulate the local economy, contracts are being debundled and bid bonds have been waived below $100,000. This provides an opportunity for DBE/SBEs to serve as Prime Contractors.
Firms interested in receiving future solicitations should register at VIA.mwdsbe.com. Upcoming bid opportunities include: Office Supplies, Restroom Renovation, Design and Construction of Paratransit Operations and Maintenance Facility, Towing Services, VIA Transit Police Station Renovation, State Legislative Consulting, Primo 100 Route Shelter Security Camera Replacement, and Coffee/Vending Machine contracts."
The community is grateful for The Fair Contracting Coalition and all the donated hours that go into the research and action being carried out within their team. The Fair Contracting Coalition should be saluted for it's work to show million dollar agencies, whom our tax dollars support, how to support who supports them. We would like to think that is the standard thought process for public agencies, unfortunately it is not. Public Agencies who work with The Fair Contracting Coalition show a dedication to their organization, their community, and they send a message to public of, 'We Care'.
We hope to see the agencies who have chosen NOT TO build a relationship with The Fair Contracting Coalition to look to the public agencies that HAVE. These relationships may start off rocky but they grow, if, the agency humbles themselves to outside critique and learns of their blind spots within the community they serve.
We will continue to support the FCC as they fight for fair contracting and inclusion for all minority business owners and the community. We thank VIA for hosting July's Fair Contracting Coalition Meeting and look forward to seeing them next time!