Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent a letter this month to all fifty governors, telling them “it is vital that we work together to provide small disadvantaged businesses and female and minority workers a fair chance to engage in transportation projects.” They must use not only existing programs but also, it is emphasized throughout the letter, “innovative strategies to provide opportunities for the underrepresented.” “Underrepresented” is invariably defined in terms of race, ethnicity, and sex, of course; so is “disadvantaged” in the DOT context.
The governors and their “local partners” are urged to “establish” and “meet” “goals, to reach a greater number” of “disadvantaged” businesses. Goals as in quotas. The secretary also touts a new “training program for women and girls interested in transportation careers.” And he warns that DOT is not alone in wanting the governors to get their numbers right, citing the notorious Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor, with its focus on “underrepresented groups, such as women and minority workers, in recruitment and hiring on construction projects” funded by stimulus money.
All that’s just on page one of the letter, and there’s more of the same on page 2. I’m not the only one who reads the letter this way; see this wire story.
The president, to his credit, has rebuffed suggestions that economic recovery efforts be race-focused; Secretary LaHood, not so much.