Is HISD Keeping Rebuilding Jobs from Minority-Owned Firms?

IS HISD KEEPING REBUILDING JOBS FROM MINORITY-OWNED FIRMS? That’s what the Houston chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (or HNOMA) seems to suspect, having sent a letter to HISD superintendent Terry Grier alleging “disenfranchisement” and wanting to know why so few jobs funded by last year’s $1.89 billion bond to rebuild 40 schools have been awarded to African-American-owned firms, reports Hair Balls: “Only two percent of the monies assigned have gone to the six [Houston-area] architectural firms run solely by African-American owners,” says Jeff Balke. “According to the letter, it appears that none of the six firms in question were even interviewed for projects pertaining to the four traditionally African-American high schools being rebuilt,” one of which is Yates High School, shown here. Adds HNOMA veep Anzilla¬†Gilmore: “In the 2007 Bond, all of these firms got work, so we assumed that with a Bond this big, these guys shouldn’t have any issues. . . . They just need the chance, and if they don’t get the chance, they should be told why.” [HISD; Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HISD

38 Comment

  • Entitled much?

  • Did they bid on the jobs? It sounds like they were waiting for someone to call them instead of actively pursuing the bids.

    Could it be that the work was not up to par in 2007, that’s why they were not considered again?

    Sounds to me like the same ole same ole, I didn’t qualify so I’m throwing the race card around.

  • I was going to ask if any of the six firms responded to RFQs or made any bids (but commonsense beat me to it). I doubt that HISD is obligated to maintain a directory of the races of people or percentage stake of ownerships in every single architecture firm in Houston.

  • For people who think these accusations are baseless…Larry Marshall, HISD board member, has been under investigation for receiving bribes from a Fort Bend County construction firm. That in itself lends credence to claims that the bidding process is corrupt. On a shadier note, I happen to know a fellow who operates a commercial construction firm (he’s a friend of a friend) who once told me that winning an HISD contract depends almost entirely on who knows who. Now that bit of hearsay is worth as much as you’re paying for it, but I do think there is enough evidence to suggest that the system is rigged, HMONA’s claims notwithstanding.

  • Affirmative action must go

  • Maybe they decided to do the whiny minority dole routine only ever other bond cycle, just to make it fair.

  • During Bellaire High’s 1992 remodel, HISD bragged about seeking out the school’s original architect to design the new wings. *shudder* The first thing that told me is that the district was clueless as to how bad the original architecture was. But the second thing it told me was that the bidding process was entirely closed. I am certainly willing to look at any evidence showing that hasn’t changed.

  • @Anse – Do you mean to say that there is corruption and self dealing in the awarding of government and municipal contracts? How ignorant of you. Government employees would never do a thing like that. Everyone who is employed by the government only has the best interests of the population in mind when they make decisions. That’s why they went into government in the first place – to help people. You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking anything less of our dear leaders.

  • But wait, what about the HNOPA (Houston
    Chapter of National Organization of Pakistani Architects) . . . why
    should we not have been given a special
    invite to this money party?

  • We’re a HUB firm and we are teamed up with a firm that’s not HUB for one of the high schools. We tried for an elementary school to do on our own, but didn’t get it. It is frustrating, but there are other opportunities to be pursued.
    That said, minority involvement on HISD projects shouldn’t just be about hiring minority owned firms. The neighborhoods around the schools, often minority neighborhoods, must be brought into the design and construction process. And HISD’s architecture magnets, again predominantly minority, really should play a fundamental role throughout the design and construction processes – for the projects’ benefit but also to help build a highly skilled, future generation of minority architects.

  • Im Irish american, didnt get a look at any HISD business. Does anyone know a good lawyer??

  • I’m gonna leave this here where it belongs:'s_law_of_headlines

  • When you name your organization “National Organization of Minority Architects”, yet no one listed on the website for the local chapter has a Hispanic or Asian-American surname, I don’t think you are an organization that thinks broadly about the term “minority”. Especially in Houston, a city that is about as diverse at it gets in this country.
    As others above have pointed out, the tone of the letter makes it appear these firms thought that HISD would invite them to participate in the design work. It does not appear from the letter, or article, that these firms actually targeted the bid process which is common to just about any form of government contract. I’m about the last person to defend anything that the HISD board does, but in this instance, the complaint does seem like self-entitled whining.

  • For the 2009-2010 school year HISD reported a total enrollment of 202,773

    125,097 (61.7%) were Hispanic American
    53,680 (26.5%) were African American
    15,889 (7.8%) were White American
    5,962 (2.9%) were Asian American
    1,241 (0.6%) were Multiracial
    531 (0.3%) were American Indian or Alaska Native
    373 (0.2%) were Native Hawaiian/Other Islander

  • So #14, are you suggesting that white American is the new minority? If that is the case then yes, it is correct that no one with a Hispanic name got the contract, they aren’t a minority group. TECHNICALLY speaking. This cracks me up lol

  • It’s not what you know but who you, well you know the rest! HISD is as crooked as a $3 bill! Were, Are, And Will Be!

  • There is never a moment where a discussion of politics will not quickly devolve into snarky sarcasm, but it is important to acknowledge actual evidence of corruption rather than just rant and rave and make broad assumptions. As for affirmative action…we have had it forever. The Texas version is described as the “Good Ol’ Boys”. Stop acting like the market is just oh so free to anybody and everybody. Who you know counts as much as what you know quite a lot of the time. Whiny white people are a 100 times more pathetic than anything. I say that as a white man. Get over it. Life ain’t that bad.

  • Either we separate people by the color of their skin or we don’t. Enough double standards, HNOMA. You can’t have it both ways, sorry.

  • Do they count women as minorities? Doesn’t just a minority co-owner count?

  • I’d like to see their bids and the winning bids for comparison purposes.

  • I doubt there was any true discrimination. I have no doubt though there is corruption involved in this process. I also love it when minorities get laid off from big firms after they loose contracts to HUBs.

  • By chance is there a HNOWA (Houston
    Chapter of National Organization of White Architects)

  • There is some benefit to the “who you know” system… If the previously used vendors performed a good job, then why risk money and time on an unproven small company that may not be able to complete the project. Of course that can open up a whole new can of worms but can be managed properly by an honest public servant, if such a thing still exists.

  • @commonsense, I happen to agree with you. Business is often done with people who are trusted. I wouldn’t have it any other way, except that we should recognize the inherent obstacle built into such a system for groups traditionally left out. I don’t think there’s much that can or should be done about private contracts between private entities, but government contracts are another matter. Same goes with public university admissions.

  • Wow…Perusing these comments is further confirmation that many fair skinned professionals (and I use ‘professional’ loosely) keep clear consciences by thinking race no longer plays a role in day to day business transactions. Sorry to let you in on a little secret, but racism is still very much alive, kicking and absorbed into mainstream society to be accepted as “the status quo”. It seems that “some” of you would much rather avoid giving credence to any claim of unequal opportunity. Instead you’d prefer to generally label some of these highly qualified firms as whiny and unprofessional. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect you to understand the plight that many minority owned business must endure to stay in business in this place. BUT, you could at least respect their claims, and be grateful that is not a daily challenge that you have to withstand to provide a certain quality of life for you and your family.

  • @c pei, I think you missed the memo where it’s no longer fashionable or even entertaining to discriminate against the different races, the new target of the day is the “otherwise sexually interested”.
    On a serious note though, I think minority businesses feel if they did not win a bid or got a job is because of their race, but 99 out of 100 they simply did not qualify for a huge number of valid reasons including education, experience, size of company etc. Sometimes it’s not THEM, sometimes it’s YOU.

  • c pei, no one has presented any evidence that the firms were discriminated against. All we have is their claims. Did they bid on jobs? Were their bids competitive? are the firms large enough to handle the work? Is it incumbent on HISD to seek out qualified minority firms, or should those firms be considered smart enough to seek work themselves? Lots of questions to consider before blaming overt racism.

  • @commonsense – not everyone is concerned with keeping abreast of the latest fashion trends of what’s acceptable. We can start a list of various groups in our society that don’t always get a fair shake, but if I remember correctly, the context of the post and several comments were all related to race. Just out of curiosity, would you happen to be a minority business owner that can speak from experience?
    @Ross – you’re absolutely correct. No evidence of discrimination is present in this post, however commenters felt compelled to deliver their verdict of why these architects “probably” were not selected. So I, too,felt compelled to render an opinion. It may not be so popular, or fashionable but its my observation and my truth.

  • @c pei, as a matter of fact, until very recently one of our managing partners was black. He was in charge of new client acquisitions and was the face of the company for a while. I can honestly say we got our fair share of contracts we competed for, on par with our peers and competition, in fact I even noticed preferential treatment toward him by certain clients due to the whole “White Guilt” thing. So, by personal experience, I can say that if you are competitive and competent, you don’t need to hide behind the race excuse.

  • How about awarding work based on economics, capacity and past performance on similar projects?

  • What? Huh? I just thought all schools were built by PBK these days! ;-)

  • It says that 6 architectural firms got “two percent of the monies”. That sounds pretty good considering the overall number of architectural firms. I would be surprised if 2% of the architects in this city or any city in the country are african amaerican architects. As an architect I know that the african american population doesnt exist in architecture. I don’t know the reasons, but there just are not a lot of african american architects.

    This article says the country has less than 2% african American Architects:

  • How about HISD just start their own architect division and we would not have to worry about which firm gets the job! Seems like a heck of a lot of savings in that notion!

  • Not the good schools, Marmer. :-)

  • Didn’t they hear? Texas opted out of the DOE Race to the Top program

  • A quick comment regarding race relations in America:

    Every immigrant group of every ethnic and racial composition can manage within a few generations to yield fully acculturated and productive members of society.

    The African-American community has struggled in fits and starts to accomplish the same thing, but has failed to acculturate its youth. The opportunity is there for them; individual African-Americans and a variety of immigrant communities have proven that. I think that they are held back by a victim culture and mentality. It is internal, but externally reinforced. Non-members of that community can therefore best aide the economic advancement of African-Americans by treating them respectfully and as equals, without pity or guilt, just as brutally as they would treat any competitor or supplier.

    Yes, corruption and the good ole’ boys are a problem. They’re problematic for anybody that’s not connected, and if you ain’t, you ain’t. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin.

  • @TheNiche, I have a real problem with this charge that African-Americans have “failed to acculturate its youth.” It’s as if you don’t recognize the very distinct African-American culture that has been cultivated over generations. You may not like some aspects of it, and that’s your choice. This culture, like any other, has formed upon a basis of generational experiences, and in their case, those experiences are rooted in struggle and cultural and institutional racism. We forget that in the Reconstruction years, black Americans were quite ready and willing to pursue the achievements the white establishment readily accepted for itself, but they were prevented from doing so, and in reaction to that experience, were forced to cultivate an insular community with a wariness of white cultural norms. If a black kid’s sagging britches offend the white man, it’s only right and natural that the black kid would embrace it, because history has taught him that little is to be gained by donning a suit and tie and taking on the white man’s mannerisms. These are truths that cannot be undone in a generation or even two. We’re only a couple away from Jim Crow, for crying out loud. It takes time to heal wounds that are 300 years old. If white people can’t understand this, it’s only because they have not endured this history themselves and have never really acknowledged it anyway. My final point: some of the most prosperous immigrants in this country come from Africa. I point that out to show that this history is complex and unique to a specific community and has nothing to do with any broad perceptions of racial inferiority. We have made stunning progress in race relations in America. Unfortunately neither side acknowledges this often enough. It doesn’t mean we don’t have more progress to make.

  • ^^Always full of excuses.