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Women-, minority-owned preference good in theory, bad in execution

By Chris Thompson

State Sen. Glenn Grothman
has taken to an extreme his opposition to preferences for women- and minority-owned companies.

But he still presents a relevant argument.

In the waning days of the legislative session, the West Bend Republican introduced a doomed proposal for a constitutional amendment that would ban racial or gender contracting preferences. He did so in response to two bills — one that would make permanent a 25 percent minority contracting goal for projects that receive affordable housing tax credits and another that would restore a state program that gives grants and loans to minority businesses.

Both bills failed to get a vote before the session ended.

Grothman’s proposal also failed, but it brought to light a growing trend of offering preferences to construction companies. Whether they are focusing on minority-owned companies or Milwaukee-based companies, lawmakers are handing out competitive advantages as if they were buttons at a campaign rally.

In a way, they are.

Preferences are strong political capital, giving a politician the opportunity to show how much he cares and understands.

But where does it end? At what point does a preponderance of preferences go too far in manipulating competitive balance?

Those were the questions behind Grothman’s proposal. He just took it too far, backing it up with opinion and rhetoric rather than facts and statistics.

There is a point at which preferences will do more harm than good. At least Grothman took a shot at saying where that point might be.

Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1818.


  1. We just elected a black President by a wide margin…. that alone means race (and gender) quotas are no longer needed.

  2. Avery Goodrich Jr.

    The election of our President (“by a wide margin”) who happens to be black, has no corelation to whether racism still exists in this country. It does. Employers have and continue to discriminate against minorities and women, even when they don’t intend to do so. That’s why employers receiving federal funds are required to use their best efforts to ensure their work places are free of unlawful discrimination. Also, in the construction industry context, the use of the perjorative word “quotas,” serves only to muddy the water. What could possibly be wrong with a law or local preference ordinance that seeks to facilitate the inclusion of qualifed small, disadvantaged, or veteran-owned businesses in the competitive bid process. And, if a qualified minority or women-owned firm fits into one of the above-mentioned catorgories, what would be the complaint then?

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