Religious leaders prepare for march to raise awareness about disparity study

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Religious leaders in Virginia Beach are planning to march along Atlantic Avenue this Saturday.

“The demonstration is to remind our city, elected officials, that they work for all the people, not just a select group of people,” said Reverend James Allen.

Allen is the president of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference, which is holding the Faith, Freedom, Justice March to address local and national issues.

“The thing I think we get out of Saturday’s march is there are people who are concerned about this issue as well as policing issues, representation on city council, as well as a number of issues people have feelings about,” Allen said.

One of those issues include a disparity study, which would look into if there is disparity in the city among minorities, women, and veterans specially in businesses.

“We want you to come out and say fund the study.”

On Tuesday night, city council gave the city manager the approval for a request for a proposal to find a business to do the study.

The study will be done in three phases:

Task 1

  • Provides a review of the city’s policies, procedures, SWaM programs, and race and gender neutral efforts.
  • Review of city’s aspirational goal and recommendations for future goals and additional programs based on results from disparity studies conducted in other municipalities within the region.
  • Presents the methodology used to determine the city’s relevant market area and statistical analysis of vendor utilization by the city for procurement of contracting, and services.

Task 2

  • Provides a discussion of the availability of firms and the levels of disparity for vendors as well as a review of the multivariate analysis for the city.

Task 3

  • Provides an analysis of the presence of disparity in the private sector and its effect on the ability of firms to win procurement contracts from the city.
  • Presents an analysis of anecdotal data collected from the survey of business owners, personal interviews, focus groups, and public hearings.
  • A summary of the findings based upon the analyses presented in previous phases.

Mayor Will Sessoms says he was against doing the study at first because the city admitted to having a problem, but worked to solve it. He says last year, the city broke a record awarding a number of contracts to minorities.

“We started a process. We’ve been working hard to do the right thing. I think there’s a perception from the community that we’re not doing enough. As such, I ended up being in support of the disparity study,” he said.

Sessoms says it’s unfair to call the demonstration a march for the disparity report because of information his office received.

“We’re opposed to racism, sexism, cronyism, economic exclusion, religious persecution, fear mongering, hatred and political exclusion. Well guess what? I’m totally against that, too, as is every citizen in Virginia Beach,” he said.

Sessoms say he would attend the march but will be out of town this weekend.

Sessoms say the disparity study could take 18 months because of the size of the city and having phases will allow for problems found in each phase to be solved quicker.

Allen says he’s against the three phase plan because it will take longer.

“To me, that’s a waste of time, a waste of resources, a waste of our tax payer money,” said Allen.

Allen says the organization has already spent around $5,400 in permits and other expenses, including officers needed to shut down roads.

Allen says the group understands the cost of march on the city.

“To me, it’s a small price to pay for what we’re trying to do,” Allen said.

The demonstrators will meet around 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Rudee Inlet. The event begins at 11 a.m. and participants will go to 40th Street.