Saturday, September 25, 2010

East Valley Tribune article on Prop. 107

Some excerpts from the article -

Voters will decide at the ballot this year if they want to outlaw affirmative action programs and any special programs or preferences for women and minorities.

Proposition 107 would prohibit preferential treatment or discrimination by government on the basis of race, sex or ethnic origin. It would specifically apply to employment, education and contracting.

Proponents say that the language simply reflects the goals of a color-blind society. In fact, Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, who sponsored the measure to amend the Arizona Constitution, has invoked the verbiage the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who said he looked forward to when "little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

That exception is at the heart of a provision of Tucson City Code which provides eligible firms of minorities which have not received their fair share of contracts an "adjustment" allowing them to bid up to 7 percent more on product or service contracts and still win. And there are procedures to give bonus points to certain firms bidding on professional services.

Montenegro said the affirmative action programs which started out to outlaw discrimination now actually promote it. He said the measure, if approved, would truly create a level playing field, at least in government programs.

Others, however, defend the system of preference points.

In a statement of opposition to Proposition 107, Lea Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, said studies have shown that firms owned by women and minorities "may lack key procurement business relationships and consequently be left off of preferred vendor lists without such a system."

But five southern Arizona Republican legislators, in their own statement of support, said the aim of the measure is to ensure equal treatment.

"All these government preferences are saying is women, minorities, people of color aren't good enough to create a natural, genuine diversity on the merits," said Sens. Frank Antenori and Al Melvin and Reps. David Gowan, Ted Vogt and David Stevens. "No person should be entitled to ‘special' programs solely based on their race or sex."

The measure contains an exception for any action necessary to maintain eligibility for any federal program if doing otherwise would result in a loss of federal dollars to the state. It also would not apply to any court orders or consent decrees in force if and when the measure is enacted.

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