Potential Liberty Builders lawsuit looms
by Joshua Arce
San Francisco – Over the past year, the San Francisco Bay View has tracked the efforts of Liberty Builders to break through the barriers and challenges that have historically kept local minority contractors from winning public works contracting opportunities. After many months of back-and-forth discussions with the City regarding the rescission of an award to rebuild the Bayview Library, Liberty has retained San Francisco civil rights attorney DeWitt Lacy to pursue possible legal remedies for what Liberty alleges is a discriminatory breach of contract.
Liberty has argued that the Bayview Library situation is as much about the particular facts of their experience as it is about the burdens on the capacity of minority-owned construction firms seeking to become prime contractors that make the case for much-needed reform.
Discussions in search of an informal resolution of Liberty’s concerns have yielded no results, and it has been suggested that the City faces a choice between moving forward with a sense of division in the community or making one last effort to find harmony with the only Black-owned construction firm in San Francisco to win a public works contract in more than a decade. Some have said that the Bayview Library should proceed immediately no matter the cost in light of the need for jobs, while others have countered that without the benefit of the Avalos local hiring law or a local contractor who cares about the community, there are no assurances that community jobs will actually materialize.
“We have run out of options to correct what we believe to be a discriminatory injustice,” said Liberty Builders owner Willie Ratcliff, who also publishes the Bay View. Liberty’s attorney, DeWitt Lacy, noted that “contracts are essentially a set of promises. We hope the City keeps its promise to the constituents of this community and allows them a fair opportunity to rebuild the library.”
With a dynamic and highly capable advocate in the form of attorney Lacy at Liberty’s side, the City would do well to quickly make one more attempt to begin to correct past wrongs as aggressively as Supervisor Avalos moved to reform local hiring by finding a harmonious resolution for the Bayview Library situation.
Joshua Arce, executive director of Brightline Defense Project, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brightline is a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and empowering communities. Brightline’s efforts have included campaigns to shut down dirty fossil fuel power plants in Southeast San Francisco, promote local renewable energy, and increase blue-collar and green-collar employment opportunities for residents of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and environmental justice communities. Learn more at www.brightlinedefense.org.