After losing MWDBE contracting officer Chuck Powell to retirement the previous November, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh board voted in February 2016 to hire a consultant to recommend the best way to restructure its MWDBE office into one that is more responsive and would, per Executive Director Robert Rubinstein, “ensure there is equity in contracting opportunities with the URA.”
The consultant, Exstare Federal Services Group, compiled a report and recommended the authority do one thing first—hire a replacement for Chuck Powell. Six months ago, they did, hiring Diamonte Walker, former program director at the Hill CDC. She and her assistant, Lisa Moses, have worked out so well, that the board voted Feb. 8 to hire Exstare again to conduct a Racial Equity Assessment that will primarily look at ensuring diverse representation within all levels of the URA.
Columbus Brooks, URA human resources manager, told the New Pittsburgh Courier that the assessment will be primarily internal, but as Authority Executive Director Rubinstein reported at the meeting, the assessment may also address:
•Shifting the URA’s organizational culture to fully tackle a range of social justice issues impacting its economic development activities;
•Addressing economic disparities and institutionalized barriers experienced by residents of color and other marginalized groups in Pittsburgh; and
•Improving public perception of the accessibility and transparency of the URA.
“We want to look at leadership, see that key people are hired or advanced into the director’s office or into other higher management,” said Brooks.
“I’ve been here two years and have been part of our Social Equity Working Group, worked with Exstare and worked on our inclusion plan. We’ve hired a lot of diverse people.”
Board member R. Daniel Lavelle said he was pleased with the progress the authority is making.
“We’ve been working on this for a while, and it’s starting to come together,” he said.
Exstare is based in Alexandria, Va., and owned by Nancy K. West, an African American woman with over three decades of experience in public policy. Prior to founding the company in 2005, she developed compliance protocols for both private- and public-sector agencies. Her government experience included work in both the U.S. House and Senate, the FBI and the U.S. Department of transportation.
Its contract with the URA is for $50,000.
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