Reacting to criticism by a citizen advocate, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has ordered a review of the way the city awards landscaping, mowing and janitorial services contracts.
A workgroup consisting of agencies and members of the mayor’s office will convene “to detect the best possible way to address the concerns you raised regarding making contracts available to programs and vendors that provide workforce development opportunities to low-skilled youth,” Young wrote in a letter emailed to Kim Trueheart yesterday.
Trueheart, a longtime youth and homeless advocate, protested a $40,000 reservoir brush-clearing contract last week, saying former “squeegee boys” she helped train in landscaping, who are now certified by OSHA, could do the work.
Young voted to delay approval of the reservoir contract to deal with the political fallout, as did City Council President Brandon M. Scott. The two men are vying to be elected mayor in the upcoming Democratic Party primary.
$50 Million Pot
Trueheart’s protest was part of a larger argument she made to the Board of Estimates last summer.
She said the city should find ways to open up the $50 million pot of money it has spent in recent years on mowing, landscaping and janitorial services to vendors who agree to employ young people, including “squeegee boys” that the mayor says he wants off city streets.
Currently, such contracts are awarded to the lowest-price bidder who fulfills certain minority and women business goals.
Young said the new workgroup, to be chaired by Deputy Chief of Staff Sheryl Goldstein, has 45 days to come up with ideas to “engage local businesses and nonprofit partners to advance economic equity” in the procurement process.
Based on Young’s letter, the workgroup will not include members of the public but instead consist of city agencies and members of his staff, including employment development, minority business and “Children and Family Success,” an office that Young has created.
”My hope,” he wrote to Trueheart, “is that by opening up this discussion across multiple agencies, we can think more comprehensively about the innovative workforce and business development opportunities that can derive from the review process.”
Last week the Board of Estimates was on the verge of approving the invasive-plant-removal contract to longtime vendor Lorenz Inc., when Trueheart objected, saying the Baltimore County contractor did not employ city youth.
She said Bmore Clean & Green, a pilot cleaning program she has started to train “squeegee boys,” could do the job.
Young and Scott agreed to delay approval of the contract for two weeks over the objections of the Department of Public Works, which said the work was too dangerous for unskilled and inexperienced workers.
Young yesterday urged Trueheart to register with CitiBuy and start biding on contracts “you believe the Clean & Green Program is qualified.”