Black Mayors Call for 'Political Will' to Rebuild America's Cities

By Rosenblum, Susan B. | Nation's Cities Weekly, September 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

Black Mayors Call for 'Political Will' to Rebuild America's Cities


Rosenblum, Susan B., Nation's Cities Weekly


NLC Advisory Council Member Mayor Wellington E. Webb of Denver joined Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry in calling on Black local elected officials to exert "political will, bold leadership, and vigilance" in rebuilding American cities, even as the courts and Congress dismantle affirmative action programs.

The mayors addressed more than 100 people who attended the forum, "Black Leadership: Creating Hope and New Vision for America's Cities" on September 17, 1998. The session, hosted by U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) was part of the 28th annual Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. September 16-19, 1998. In addition to Rush the forum included: Margaret Simms of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; Tim Bates, a professor from Wayne State University; and Reverend Willie Barrow, chairperson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

The forum examined the economic benefits and overall quality of life for minorities, especially Black Americans, in cities with Black mayors. Bates, author of a new book, Race, Self-employment, and Upward Mobility: An Illusive American Dream (1998), attributed the growth of Black, other minority, and women-owned firms in cities with Black mayors to "political will." Black mayors, Bates stated, have used strategies, outside formal legislation, to promote minority business development, and, hence, minority employment. These include executive orders requiring that a certain percentage of city contracting go to minority-owned firms, and programs to assist minority and women-owned small businesses as part of overall economic development strategy.

The results are significant. According to Bates, Census data show that, on average, Black owned firms in cities with Black mayors have larger sales as compared with their counterparts in cities without Black mayors. In 1982, "the total sales of Black-owned firms in cities with Black mayors was significantly larger ($168 million) than in cities without Black mayors ($59 million)." But the impact goes beyond increased city contracting with Black firms. By 1992, more than 60 percent of Black-owned firms in cities with Black mayors were selling not only to government, but also to the private market.

Mayors Webb and Barry described city initiatives in Denver and Washington, D.C. to increase minority-owned businesses and minority employment.

Mayor Webb called on Black mayors to "change the dynamics" in the way they do city business. He highlighted Denver's strategy to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses benefited from business development at the new Denver International Airport (DIA). …

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