WHERE IS THE $1.8 MILLION DOLLARS FOR
What happened to the $1.8 Million dollars over 4 years pledged by Bexar County Judge Wolff to support advancing Black Businesses? Initially, there was great excitement about a first of its kind program. Before the program started, on July 22, 2018, County Manager David Smith identified stakeholders who exposed a major problem which our chamber, the Alamo City Black Chamber is not at all responsive to anyone or any entity. There is no sense of accountability. On August 3rd, we reported the chamber did reply to the County Manager.
DR. EDDIE KIRBY, CHAIR & DR. SHELAH SIMMONS, PARLIAMENTARIAN
In fairness to Bexar County Manager David Smith, he has met with Black business leaders to gain from them what would be the best solution to move the initiative forward. However, the same individuals talked to by the County, indicate Dr. Eddie Kirby, Board Chair, has chosen not to communicate with them or believe long time influencers don't have value in the final decision. It is apparent that Dr. Kirby has a different way of doing business. To put it simply, he doesn't 'check in'.
Since July 22, when San Antonio business leaders learned of the Black business program was halted and Aug 3, when we reported the Chamber had replied to the County Manager, the community has been left in the dark.
It's been 8 weeks and no update to the shocking news of losing $1.8 Million capacity building effort for Black businesses. Over 8 weeks the chamber members had to answer questions with no answers, and many have distanced themselves from what has been called incompetency.
I am more convinced this is not an issue of statutory requirements not being met, or Bexar County employees who felt their job was threatened, this issue seems no one on the County side wanted to have their name attached to a chamber with no pulse for being responsive.
The leader of any organization sets the tone. We are learning the negative tones with our current president to our previous president. How did a chamber build a package to provide solutions to an apparent disparity with Black owned businesses and then after a change of leadership, literally give the program and funding to a much broader minority business community?
In my mind, I'm asking didn’t the Commissioners Court vote to approve the program designed to help Black Business? As we know the County Manager, David Smith pulled the plug on the deal after he was questioned about it from stakeholders. Our paper ran front covers showing our East side community disappointment of the $1.8 Million deal gone bad.
Well time is ticking and ticking fast - in fact we are out of time. November is election time. Many promises delivered by politicians to the Black community could go away and evaporate once elections are won or loss. It appears as though there is no movement and since any of the chamber leaders have not been successful to change the County Manager’s mind.
The Observer believes that what should happen now is the Executive Board should all resign. A $1.8M deal gone bad is the boards problem.
If you know us, you will know we don’t play or mix words. On July 30th, we asked the Alamo City Black Chamber to appoint our CEO, Waseem Ali, to the Board of Directors as he wanted to be a part of the solution. Ali stated, "I know Black business. I thought since my company has a board seat either I could substitute out or the chairman could add another seat to grant my request. There are companies on the chamber board that have more than one board seat. What makes them special or why should they be treated any different?". Since asking the Chairman Eddie Kirby, Ali's request has went unanswered. The slowness to make a decision is what is driving the community crazy. No matter the decision- MAKE ONE!
The verdict is out. Dr. Kirby is no Paula Gold Williams. Paula Gold Williams should take the opportunity to stop the bleeding and pull Dr. Kirby from the seat. The chamber is a full time effort. While Dr. Kirby reports to his day job, the chamber business community has no leader during the time that we work. If the best time and only time the Chair can commit is after work, this is not ideal at all for ours or any business community. Black businesses have survivability on the mind... We need a committed advocate to move us forward.
There is a risk for public agencies to manage the business of any ethnic or racial chamber. There are things that must be said, but the employee of a public agency says what is politically correct. Being politically correct runs contrary to the history and narrative about how Blacks must achieve economic justice.
There is no evidence that our chamber is going to recover from this visible stain.
- Dr. Eddie Kirby, an employee of CPS Energy, is not responsive to the Black community to which he is serving. He is the leader with executive board members who have failed to reverse the $1.8M nightmare!
- Dr. Eddie Kirby has not hired anyone to lead the chamber from day to day as the Executive Director.
- Dr. Eddie Kirby is not a Black business owner. He is not responsive to any request.
If County Manager David Smith is judging the chamber’s ability to manage the grant, why would he allocate money to a part-time volunteer board?
We encourage the readers to call the County Manager’s office and ask where Mr. David Smith is on his decision. You may be told he is still waiting for the chamber to provide the information requested. Then call the chamber and ask them what are they doing different to manage the needs of our community.
We have grown frustrated with all the wait and sees. All of the executive board need to be replaced as no one is yelling "Fire, the house is burning down."
Business owners say, “We are afraid we must take down a chamber because they don’t see themselves as part of the community.” “The current chair doesn’t call anybody and doesn’t know what he is doing.” “The leadership of the chamber gave dollars directed towards Black businesses away to “Minority” businesses which doesn’t help our situation.” “We need a second Black chamber or some other organization because the one we have is incompetent.”
As we continue to wait for a decision or more information from Bexar County no one hold your breath. It is obvious this is the hot potato that no one wants to address. If the Black business community does not have advocates at the city and the county, then why do we need a chamber? The chamber is not a social club. It is not a club for corporate employees to treat as their private country club. This is the reality of our chamber holding golf tournaments versus addressing the real needs of business development.
On the Executive Board, Dr. Shelah Simmons, when asked at the Bexar County Commissioners Court, if the grant would be used for Black businesses or African American businesses, she agreed with Dr. Kirby to say minority businesses. While people smiled, Black businesses were super mad! Two PhDs with no investment in a Black business gave our tax payer dollars to the majority populations. They both made the mistake and they both need to go! Why would someone give $1.8M directed towards Blacks who have typically always been left behind, to all minorities?
Unfortunately the chamber doesn’t have membership meetings, and doesn’t follow the by-laws established, has used personality wars of the front office to determine who is eligible to even be in the chamber. This is a divided house.
We suppose the perception was the Bexar County Manager was wrong for stopping the initiative. Our conclusion is the lack of accountability, the lack of an executive director, no follow-up by the Chairman to work with any community business leaders and no open meetings is the reason to suggest to the Executive Board – You are Fired!
Eddie, you are the problem. Get out of the way! Allow real Black business owners to run with the chamber and stop blowing off the community you are supposed to serve.
Corporations have too much power and control within the third oldest chamber in the nation. The control of the chamber must come back to Black businesses. When will the Alamo City Black Chamber’s Annual meeting occur? As members we can vote a community person onto the board. We demand the doors of the chamber be open and those responsible for the dereliction of duty resign. We will keep calling out your names until we can start again with people passionate about advancing our people in our community!
Again, no news, in this situation, is bad news. We haven't heard anything from Bexar County nor the Alamo City Black Chamber about the $1.8M Deal!