Black Mayors, White Majorities: The Balancing Act of Racial Politics

By Ravi K. Perry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Strong Housing Support and a Weak Mayor
Rhine McLin’s Efforts for Improved Housing

When you talk about all these issues, even though I’m the mayor of color,
it’s across the board. There is only in the city, to your constituency, an east
and a west, but to me as the mayor, they’re all my constituents
.

Rhine McLin, interview, June 26, 2008

Having campaigned for improved schools, better neighborhoods, and reduced crime, Rhine McLin was elected mayor of Dayton in November 2001 with 51 percent of the vote, managing to defeat a popular two-term incumbent, Mike Turner. She became the first female mayor and third black mayor of a city with a long and sometimes difficult racial past. McLin herself was knowledgeable about race relations, having once taught college courses on the subject. Her selfidentification as an African American and her familial political lineage also made her especially sensitive to racial issues. Shortly after taking office, McLin organized interracial “friendship lunches” as part of her effort to address the region’s historic racial problems. Nearly three hundred people attended the first lunch, each donating fifteen dollars to a charitable fund she had established. “I wanted to do something a little different and let people have a relaxed atmosphere and have people understand friendship,” McLin said of the lunches.1 While she strongly identified with the black community, her role as mayor was to be the mayor for everyone. Indeed “mayor for everyone” best defined the approach McLin used in her efforts to improve the quality of life of black Daytonians.

-125-

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