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January 12, 2000

This was a day for picking up loose ends. That's so much easier to do when the Boss is on the road, especially when he comes up missing as he did for half the day today.

It's one thing not to have him in the office where he can call or fax me some new task every fifteen minutes. It's quite another thing to know that he's driving a truck with no front brakes, pulling a trailer with no brakes at all and loaded with gangways, through the mountains overnight during a snowstorm, and then not to hear from him until mid morning. We tried to call him every hour, and we ended up checking with the highway patrol, the hospitals, and even the jails, to see if he could be found. He finally turned up around ten. He'd pulled over to put on chains, then couldn't get back on the road, so he waited it out until help came along. He had people all over Nevada and California looking for him, but he was oblivious to any concerns he'd caused.

Anyway, after we finally found him, it was a quiet day, and I was able to cross a few items off my "to do" list. I got state sales tax returns done for both Arizona and California, state and federal payroll tax deposits made, a bond ordered for a job we're bidding next week, and I started the laborious but necessary chore of contacting as many disabled veteran business enterprises as I could find to try to get them to bid with us.

The state of California requires a "good faith" effort to get DVBE participation in state projects, and so we end up going through the same unproductive and unrewarding process on every bid. It turns into a routine, especially when you know what the results will be. We get a few names from state and local service organizations, and a few more from database searches on the Internet. We fax out the specifications to every business that qualifies. On some bids we'll get one or two responses, and we'll do what we can to help these folks bid the job with us. Since we do most of the actual construction with our own forces, the best we can usually hope for is someone to sell us some hardware.

Since I don't do any of the estimating, it's my job to do the searching and make the initial contacts. The reward is not that we get work for deserving disabled veterans, because that hardly ever happens. The reward is that by showing "good faith," we get to do some work for the state. It's a jaded view, maybe, but it's how the system operates. It's such a repetitive process that by the time you've done it for the tenth or fiftieth time there's no humanity left in it.

If the state truly wanted to help, it would set up a better method for facilitating contact between prime contractors and DVBE businesses, or it would put some of the burden on the veterans themselves. By putting it all on the shoulders of the prime contractors, it's almost assuring that whatever "good faith" is put into the effort will not result in much actual work for the people they're presumably trying to help.

And I'm saying all this as someone who supports affirmative action programs, when they're designed to level the field and make up for impediments that society has placed on certain individuals and groups. If I've been able to get ahead because someone's foot has been on your throat, whether it's mine or someone else's, I think I should at least help you up and dust you off and give you a chance to even things out. But when the law makes the burden of compliance an onerous one, I'm just a little less likely to smile while I'm filling out the paperwork. Especially if, in the end, neither one of us benefits.

Do you understand what I'm saying here? I'm not complaining about having to do the work. I'm complaining that I have to do the work and it takes significantly more time than it should and it doesn't do anyone any good. That's what I'm complaining about.

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