Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tall Ship Festival Finds Sponsor in Rattled Port Authority

Repost from Crain's Cleveland:

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to sponsor Tall Ships Festival

1:58 pm, February 17, 2010

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has approved spending $157,000 on two separate efforts to burnish the beleaguered agency's tarnished image.

It also faced more than 30 African-American and minority contractors angry because they believe they've been denied the opportunity to work on projects financed by the Port Authority.

The port's board of directors by unanimous vote approved spending $75,000 to sponsor the Tall Ships Festival in Northeast Ohio. The festival is part of a series of sailing races by what is expected to be a group of 30 replicas of 18th and 19th century sailing ships. The ships will be docked at the Port of Cleveland from July 7-11.

The board also approved an $82,000 contract for 2010 with Lesic & Camper Communications. The public relations firm has been hired to manage the agency's external communications.

The Port Authority has drawn close scrutiny since president Adam Wasserman left under pressure last November. It has cut its budget and reduced the scope of activities since Mr. Wasserman's departure.

The organization eliminated a communications director job and three other positions in December to cut costs.

Today, it also saw a stepped-up effort by the Black Contractors Association to get its members more work on projects financed by the Port Authority.

Black Contractors president Norman Edwards labeled as “totally unacceptable” the agency's efforts to encourage the hiring of minority subcontractors by developers and contractors whose projects receive lower-cost financing through the Port Authority. Mr. Edwards contended that prime contractors favor a small group of contractors that, he said, are “front companies” that are minority-owned in name only,

Contractor Al Lewis said when he goes to meetings for potential subcontractors, he and other minority contractors “get the ‘business development tour' and you never hear anything” from the prime contractors about future work.

Port board chairman Steven Williams pledged to review subcontractor lists for authority-financed projects and to take a list of qualified minority contractors to meetings with the developer and prime contractor on the Flats East Bank mixed-use project, which recently won Port Authority financing.