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

By Ravi K. Perry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Trickle-Up Public Opinion
Universalizing Black Interests Perceptions

I think the mayor is 100 percent dedicated to what she feels is right,
but is it the right path? Could that energy be used elsewhere?

Ken Sulfridge, AFSCME-Dayton Region union leader

Mayor Ford of Toledo and Mayor McLin of Dayton were both first elected under similar conditions in 2001. In both cities severe budget shortfalls, struggling public schools and downtowns, and a lack of corporate leadership posed serious challenges. And both cities elected black mayors who were “firsts,” surmounting significant historical barriers to public office: Ford was the first black mayor of Toledo, and McLin was the first female mayor of Dayton. Even given these and other constraints, however, Ford and McLin were able to introduce policies and programs that had an impact on the quality of life of black residents.

Chapters 5 and 6 showed how the presence of a black mayor led to an active pursuit of black interests on select issues: contracting for Ford and housing and neighborhood development for McLin. In this chapter after defining what is meant by “black quality of life,” I will detail the extent to which the mayors’ actions are examples of the pursuit of black interests. In addition, I examine the responses of eighty-one interviewees to three questions to reveal white and black citizens’ differing perceptions of their mayors’ efforts. I will then draw conclusions regarding which of the hypotheses of this book have been confirmed by the data.

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