ongoing assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims, helping black farmers produce crops that can be used as alternative energy sources, funding programs to combat HIV/AIDS and violence in Darfur, and using technology to increase the CBC’s constituent outreach efforts.
Black entrepreneurs should also shape their political agenda. In the past six years, many of their concerns have been neglected: A growing number of government contracts have gone to big business, the cost of loans and conducting business has risen, and the Small Business Administration’s budget has shrunk. Bill Mays, CEO of Mays Chemical Co. (No. 27 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $152 million in sales), says, “I hope there will be less pressure and less agitation against diversity initiatives in general and against government — sponsored initiatives — in particular the SBA and the 8(a) programs — to ensure that minority — owned companies get a fair share of supply contracts.”
Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Nydia VelÃ¡zquez, who chair their chambers’ respective small — business committees, have pledged to reverse those trends. But some critics say minority business owners must speak with one voice in order to have their specific needs addressed. “We don’t have the kind of consistent presence on Capitol Hill that you need,” says Anthony Robinson, head of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Right now we’re in a constant reactive mode. You need that ongoing presence in order to carry forward an agenda that speaks to the needs of minority business.”
Change does not come easily, but Democrats vow that, this session, “there will be civility and transparency. What the Republicans did in hijacking the process is atrocious,” says Clyburn. “We’re going to open up this government and let the sun shine in. There will be oversight; there will be no no — bid contracts or sneaking things into legislation.”
Some Republicans don’t view the Democratic takeover in negative terms. “It’s part of a healthy process. When you’re given the keys to governing and you lose the keys, people take you out of the governing position,” observes Michael Steele, the outgoing lieutenant governor of Maryland who lost his U.S. Senate bid. “Particularly over the last few years, the GOP has lost the keys to governing when it comes to how they spend and how we’ve handled the war in Iraq. I think we’ve paid a price for that. Leadership requires diligence. You reap what you sow.”
WINNER’S CIRCLE: New CBC Members
- Hank Johnson, Ga.
- Keith Ellison, Minn. (Congress’ first Muslim member)
- Yvette Clark, N.Y.
House Leadership and Chairs of Key Congressional Committees and Subcommittees
- Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), Majority Whip
- Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.), Ways and Means
- Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), Judiciary
- Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.), Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
- Rep. Kendrick Meek (Fla.), Homeland Security subcommittee on Management, Integration, and Oversight
- Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), Financial Services subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
- Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Governor
- David Paterson, New York Lt. Governor
Other State Wins
- Anthony Brown, Maryland Lt. Governor
- James B. Lewis, New Mexico State Treasurer