Saturday, September 30, 2023

Virginia Beach Disparity Study is nearly complete, and City Council will hear results Tuesday

Hundreds participated in a "disparity march" in February 2017, supporting real estate developer and former NFL player Bruce Smith’s request for a disparity study in Virginia Beach (Southside Daily photo)
Hundreds participated in a “disparity march” in February 2017, supporting real estate developer and former NFL player Bruce Smith’s request for a disparity study in Virginia Beach. (Southside Daily photo)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city’s year-long disparity study is nearly complete, and Tuesday everyone will find out the results, according to a memo from City Manager Dave Hansen.

Sameer Bawa, a principal at the Denver-based firm that conducted the study, BBC Research and Consulting, will present the company’s findings and study recommendations during City Council’s workshop at 4 p.m.

Related story: Bruce Smith seeks support for racial disparity study from city coalition

The city approved $425,000 for the study in July 2017, according to City Council records.

BBC Research was chosen to perform the study in August 2017, and has collected data for nearly a year, according to Hansen’s memo. This data included financial information from the city, comments from public hearings, surveys, as well as interviews with business owners and residents.

The study covers July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017.

Hansen’s memo stressed the independence of BBC Research’s study, stating that although “detailed findings will be presented at Tuesday’s meeting, they have not been provided to the city in advance.”

That was done to ensure the appearance of city staff having no influence on the study or its results, according to the memo.

The objective of the study is to scientifically identify racial disparities in the city’s business contracts and provide recommendations for alleviating any of those disparities, according to multiple announcements from the city about the study.

Support for the study was spearheaded by commercial real estate developer and former NFL player Bruce Smith after he unsuccessfully attempted to develop a business at the Oceanfront in 2016.

Smith claimed he could not move forward with the development because of a lack of diversity and inclusion at the city’s economic power structure.

“I have to question whether the city has been aggressively pursuing its minority participation goals when lucrative projects that I have proposed as an African-American developer have been continuously denied,” Smith said at a 2016 news conference.

Smith — who offered to pay for half of the disparity study in November 2016 — organized protesters at the Oceanfront months later in February 2017 who demanded an independent study into whether minorities and women have equal access and opportunities to do business with the City of Virginia Beach.

BBC Research will also provide the full report to city officials following Tuesday’s briefing.

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