Ahead of Charleston's mayoral election on Nov. 5, Charleston City Paper has partnered with Lowcountry Local First to ask the six candidates pitching themselves to be the city's leader about specific policies that affect small businesses in our community. Each week through Oct. 16, we'll publish the candidates' responses to one of those questions — to read the rest of the answers, visit charlestoncitypaper.com/llfquestions.
"What policies would you implement to support minority businesses, and how would you fund any proposed programs?" —Nilsy Rapalo, Founder, Hispanic Business Association
Sheri Irwin: I want to help to mitigate the flooding downtown. This would help all business owners if they aren't getting flooded out. I honestly don' t think tax dollars should be given to businesses. However, if we can cut spending in our city government, I would like to try to lower taxes and fees. I can't promise I can do it, but if it is possible, that would help you and all businesses.
Renee Orth: Supporting minority business ownership, while a worthy aim and one I fully support, is a band-aid fix on a deep wound. The gravity of the problem — and the scale of the opportunity — call for bold action to address the common roots of economic inequality, systemic racism and the climate crisis: a public bank that prioritizes the funding of socially responsible and minority-owned enterprises, support for worker-owned businesses, development of a local currency are a few concrete examples.
The City of Charleston needs goods and services in order to operate. Making more of those purchases from minority-owned businesses has the dual benefit of meeting a need and fostering a vibrant and diverse local economy. As mayor, I will increase the percentage of minority and women owned businesses required to participate in all city procurement contracts. In addition, I will include Local First business incentives in all city contracts. The city is thriving, and its success should be shared equitably among all.
Well, first, we want to ensure that we're doing everything we can to reach out to minority and women-owned businesses in our own city contracting, which has been a real focus over the past four years. I have been very proud of our wonderful MWBE manager, Ruth Jordan. She has done a great job cleaning up our databases, and working with IT to have a better accounting and tracking of our minority and women business purchases. Additionally, we formed a new community based MWBE Commission to promote minority hiring and purchases throughout the community at large. I believe we need to continue to invest in our talented staff and the great work they're doing. We also must continue to improve the systems we have, and always look for new, meaningful ways to support minority owned businesses with our community, MWBE Commission, and staff.
Maurice Washington: (no response)
The City of Charleston does business with a lot of different companies. So to help further support our local minority owned businesses, as mayor I plan to amend the city's procurement policy to ensure local minority owned businesses have more opportunity to do business with the city. Additionally, I will ensure that our Minority Business Enterprise office provides the necessary resources to help our minority owned business thrive in the city. We will fund these programs through our city's general fund.
To read the rest of the questions, visit charlestoncitypaper.com/llfquestions.