Mayor Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach recently recommended that the city move forward with a disparity study to examine whether cronyism and discrimination is keeping minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) from winning city contracts.
A prior version of the study, which was proposed after former NFL football player Bruce Smith spoke in favor of a disparity city for the city, was shorter and split into two phases.
The newly-proposed study comes after community discontent with that proposal, and is lengthier and contains a third phase. Mayor Sessoms has said that he "really believes the city of Virginia Beach has been doing the right thing," but is recommending the fuller study because "the perception is that we’re not doing a good enough job."
Community leaders like Smith and Gary McCollum (a former state senate candidate) have said that they are still displeased with the study being split into phases, and are concerned that the city might spin the results of the study in some fashion. McCollum and members of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference, including Reverend James Allen, organized a march recently for the purposes of calling attention to issues of discrimination that they believe the disparity study would help in remedying.
The full study is projected to cost between $500,000 and $700,000 and will take approximately two years to complete. Community leaders have agreed to pay for half of the cost.
The study, if similar to a Portsmouth, Virginia disparity study that Virginia Beach city staffers provided to local news media as a possible model, would involve reviews of existing city policies and programs, economic analysis of disparity, and interviews with local business owners.