Beach City Council approves providing nearly $425K for disparity study

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Council has unanimously approved a motion to provide close to $425,000 in funding for a disparity study.

The study, set to begin immediately, will seek to determine whether the city provides equal opportunities when awarding service contracts.

“I applaud Mayor Sessoms and the council for really listening to the community,” said activist Gary McCollum.

McCollum, a leader with the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference, had previously teamed up with other groups in pushing for the disparity study.

In February, about 100 activists held a Faith, Freedom and Justice March on Atlantic Avenue.

Hampton Roads residents march for solidarity

That same month, council gave the go-ahead to request proposals.

“We had a nationwide response,” Taylor Adams, the city’s purchasing agent, updated council Tuesday.

Prior to the formal session, Adams briefed council members on the proposal review process. A committee, made up of personnel from multiple city departments, reviewed pitches from four firms.

Ultimately, the committee recommended moving forward with BBC Research and Consulting, based in Denver. 

“They’ve conducted more than 100 disparity studies,” Adams said.

Councilman Bobby Dyer, a member of the Minority Business Council and Human Rights Commission, told 10 On Your Side that already, he believes the city has made “very bold attempts to level the playing field… to give everyone equal opportunity to do business with the city.”

Dyer, who spoke out in support of the study Tuesday, believes its results will serve to “vindicate” the city.

“The point is that we have to demonstrate to the minorities and the public at large that we are making those attempts,” he said.

The study will not only look at how minorities have fared in attempting to do business with the city, but also how women, small businesses, veterans and those with disabilities have succeeded in securing contracts, officials said. The study will evaluate current goals and help in creating new ones.

“The city is sending a signal right now that we should all hear clearly, and that is: The city is open for business, for everyone,” McCollum said.

Businessman and Hall of Fame football great Bruce Smith had also been a major force in pushing for the study. Smith could not be reached for comment as of Tuesday night.

Bruce Smith on Va. Beach diversity study: ‘We still have work to do’

The final report is expected to be finished within 12 to 14 months.