Thursday, February 16, 2012

Architect fired by Columbus Board of Education

There's a story in the Columbus Dispatch today about the firing of an architect on a $26 million middle school renovation by the Columbus Board of Education. First the public was told there were design problems with the historic details, now that the architect has been fired. I always note articles about architects since my husband is one, and has been an associate, a partner, and a sole practitioner with his own firm since 1994. The minute I read the architect's name, I guessed the problem was affirmative action. If you are to get state or local government jobs, you have to have a female or minority firm partner with you. Apparently, the real reason he was fired had originally been covered up, so now the story is appearing. And you have to work your way almost to the end before you find out, not why he was fired, but why he was hired.
"Asked why Udeagbala's company was leading a project it wasn't qualified to complete it, Acock [architect on the oversight committee that selected him] said after the meeting that it was partly because of the district's desire to help a local black architect. . . The district's "local economically disadvantaged enterprise" program, known as LEDE, seeks to help socially and economically disadvantaged people participate in district contracts, "including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, women and others," the policy says. Because of federal case law, the program sets only race- and gender-neutral goals for participation."
What a crock of BS! It wasn't "partly" the reason, it was the reason. You can't get a government job in the building industry if you don't partner with a minority firm, and the minority firms in turn in order to get work, partner with more experienced, non-minority firms. When I was the veterinary medicine librarian at OSU I went outside the university maintenance office (civil service) to hire a private firm painter for my library, but the bidder had to have a minority partner who did the work. He was awful, couldn't get the paint color right, and the partnering firm eventually sent in a replacement. In this case reported in the Dispatch, from the names Udeagbala partnered with, at least 2 other firms (both minority) backed out after finding out he wasn't qualified. This program of "affirmative action" on government jobs has actually hurt minorities and women. He might have become a good architect if he'd stayed in the trenches fighting the battles daily until he was ready and said no to the government.

Choosing an architect by the color of his skin or ethnicity for a building that has to withstand earth tremors, hurricanes, tornadoes, wild temperature fluctuations, snow loads, all environmental rules for health and safety, plus the complexity of renovation of a building on the historic register, is not a safe plan for the children or the staff of that school. Either he/she is qualified to do a job or he isn't. Don't put safety and design at risk to meet social goals.

Choosing a president by the color of his skin is even more dangerous--but for the whole nation, not just Columbus school children.

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