Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on February 12, 1992 · Page 9
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 9

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Wednesday, February 12, 1992
Page 9
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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1992DETROIT FREE PRESS 9A For black mayors, getting elected is the easy part .ft J One of the tough challenges a black big-city mayor faces upon getting elected is to overcome the discriminatory system that has for so many years denied access to city contracts to the very voters who put him in office. Getting elected is easier than changing things. The first-term choreography in every city with such an executive is as different as the black mayors the voters bring to the dance. It depends on the form of government, plus the mix of support from Latino and white, as well as black, voters. Detroit differs from Atlanta, as Coleman Young, say, differs from Maynard Jackson. All black mayors, however, must hack their way through more than the ;normal transitional thicket. Some transitions, over the years, have been relatively smooth, 'while others have been downright bloody. Us Payne Most dramatic was Harold Washington's legendary death dance with Chicago Councilman Edward Vrdolyak, which extended for a full mayoral term. This struggle, torn from a page in Prime Minister Ian Smith's book on Rhodesia, was a naked attempt by a white voting bloc to stifle the will of the majority of voters. Similar blood matches were waged in Atlanta during Maynard Jackson's first term in 1973, in New Orleans in 1978 under Ernest Morial, by Carl Stokes in Cleveland, and, to a lesser degree, by Wilson Goode in Philadelphia. David N. Dinkins, who won in 1989 promising to bring the races together in troubled New York City, was not expected to meet major-league resistance from the entrenched power structure. A veteran clubhouse politician himself, he had been a loyal and patient member of that structure for three decades and was not one to play the racial card. From the beginning, Mayor Dinkins, in the teeth of a recession, has been dogged by the charge that he has not done enough for those who elected him. In addition to a smattering of whites, 75 percent of the Hispanic electorate voted for Dinkins, and 95 percent of the black. From left, Harold Washington of Chicago, David Dinkins of New York, and Maynard Jackson of Atlanta: A discriminatory system resists changes, even after blacks are elected to office. In the wake of a new study showing substantial discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and white women in the awarding of city contracts, the Dinkins administration plans to direct a fixed percentage of such contracts to companies owned by members of these groups. This new program has been designed to correct a long-standing city practice of awarding money for construction, goods and services without due consideration of other than white-owned firms. Such contracts currently total some $9.7 billion, relatively little of which goes to minority businesses. In addition to addressing this substantial disparity in contract allotment, the affirmative-action program seeks to improve the administration's image problem among its core constituents. There is a growing impression among blacks and Hispanics, who elected Dinkins, that the city is not doing enough to redistribute resources among minorities. The Dinkins administration, while bracing for stiff resistance from the media, contractors and possibly the business community, defends the minority-contracts plan as fair, overdue and a boon to commerce. It will, they say, institutionalize for New York City what the federal government and other cities such as Atlanta have already done. Minorities will doubtless embrace this plan when it is announced. Others, however, will oppose it. The ensuing battle in New York might recall those in Atlanta and Chicago. ' Copyright, 1992, Newsday Inc Distributed bv Los Angeles Times Syndicate ,, i Paul Tsongas finds something surprising in New Hampshire: Momentum DOVER, N.H. I have seen the future, and it's not pretty. ; It s Paul 1 songas, the puny-faced, balding, non-charismatic former sena tor with a minor speech impediment who made almost no' impression on Washington in his one Senate term and i i - . . i. . j i: i l seemed a cincn 10 uupucaic uiai icai when he entered the Democratic presidential race last May. Now, though, the Big Mo has overtaken him. He shimmers with momentum, the steroid of politics, and with it he could get that kick to make him the winner in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. , Last Friday, Tsongas came to RICHARD COHEN ELEANOR MILLMIII News Art Syndicate Presidential candidate Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts CathUohn's Diner here, where he pretended to have lunch. He sat at the counter. But something new had happened. Instead of a waitress with a pad, he faced 13 photographers. They crawled all over one another, like little turtles in a bowl, looking for just the right angle. Tsongas reveled in the preposterous. "How am I supposed to eat?" he asked in mock indignation. He was having the time of his life. This is the miraculous moment. The arrival of momentum, that gathering of cosmic forces, has happened to Paul Tsongas. It is always a remarkable event, inexplicable really something like chemistry in love but it does not, of course, come totally out of nowhere. Tsongas has been campaigning for almost a year. He has written a thoughtful pamphlet, 86 pages setting out what he thinks about almost everything. He was the senator from just over the Massachusetts border, and so he was not a total unknown here. Still, when you add all that up, it does not explain what has happened to Tsongas. Part of what accounts for Tsongas' surge (he's now even with Bill Clinton in some polls) is what you might call the head-nodding factor. I sat and listened to Tsongas deliver a speech for em ployees of an insurance company and then take questions, and most of the time I found myself in agreement. That's not to say that I think Tsongas is right on every issue (not on supporting capital punishment, that's for sure). But what you don't get from him are those pandering phrases that hit the ear like chalk screeching down a black board the spine-shivering sound of yet another fool telling the American people what he thinks they want to hear. In fact, Tsongas has become the Volkswagen of this campaign the so-called Beetle of old, which was valued for its no-nonsense qualities. He is the guy whose one overriding promise is to promise nothing no middle-class tax cut, that's for sure. He is the guy who whacks the GOP and the last two presidents for a mindless economic policy, but who does not spare the Democrats either. ("Democrats love employment. It's employers they can't stand.") He is the guy who talks of the immorality of a national debt that will burden the next generation (a warning from Walter Mondale that Ronald Reagan just brushed aside in 1984), and who over and over cites his experience as a businessman. ("I live in this world, and I'm familiar with this stuff.") Brits, Zulus, Buchanan and politics On the New Hampshire front, Pat Buchanan is apparently suffering for no good reason. He is taking a bum rap on the matter of the Zulus and the Brits. What he said, more than a month ago, was that however glorious America's record as the melting pot of immigrants, certain things seem as obvious as that acculturation would be easier to handle if a million English dropped into Virginia than if a million Zulus landed there. This statement has been regularly denounced as bigoted, ethnocentric, unfeeling, insensitive and boorish. And that is ideology, high-style. Because attitudinizing about immigration is one of those high-flown vanities that prevent us from confronting realities. Here is a reasoned analysis of Mr. Buchanan's point. The United States is king of the acculturating powers. To say this does not mean that the United States can transform any number of foreigners into Americans at any time. A certain amount of national energy is needed to teach a foreigner American folkways and mores. There are the matters of language, literacy, government and religion. The British speak English; they come from a country that is governed by the mother of parliaments; they are by and large Christians, or at least exposed to Christian culture; and they are white-skinned. The Zulus speak no English, know nothing of democracy, and are black-skinned. It takes a generation or so to teach incoming foreigners the language, that or more to habituate those not already habituated to the idea of majority rule, minority rights. We may hope that one generation from now, after a million Zulus were acculturated to the United States, the color problem would have disappeared. But it has not yet disappeared, as American black leaders would be the first to point out. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY r) It was a generation ago that Martin Luther King Jr. copyright, 1992, universal press syndicate spoke of his dreams of an America in which skin color had evanesced. Yet there is probably a hardier separatism today than back in 1963, as witness the all-black dormitories and clubs in so many of our colleges. Moreover, we run into a special problem if the influx of a minority is done on such a scale as to interfere with the principal engine of acculturation, which is the English language. The reason everyone who was a central European Jew or an Italian or a German or a Frenchman now speaks English is that immigrants were given no alternatives. But lo! That changed when massive Hispanic immigration began after World War II. Robert Kennedy, seeking favor with Puerto Ricans in New York City, lobbied for and got a law that permitted the Spanish language to be used to test literacy before being given the right to vote. The next step was to abolish literacy tests. And the step after that is called bilingual education. What bilingual education adds up to, in some parts of Southern and Southwestern America, is teaching in the Spanish language to the exclusion of teaching in English. It is not inconceivable that the grandchildren of some Hispanics currently at school in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida will be speaking only in Spanish. What causes this to happen? Political pressure. There are enough congressmen for sale on this issue. Now if a million Zulus were to come on over and demand to be taught in Zulu, we would face a real demand-supply problem. We take it for granted that a million Zulus would not, in their disappointment, do to us what they did in 1879 at Isandhlwana, which was to express their resentment of the English by initiating what is called the Zulu War, killing 806 Europeans and 471 Africans in a single engagement. No, Pat Buchanan wasn't talking about a million Zulu warriors coming to America to make war. Buchanan has enough problems without trying to have him up for saving something entirely unreasonable about what the United States should reasonably think about in writing immigration law, namely, the relative acculturability of immigrants. We have plenty of room for a million Zulus, but that isn't the same as saying that they would be as easy as a million English. Just as the success of the early Volkswagen was a reaction to the chrome monsters Detroit was making, Tsongas has emerged as sort of the anti-Clinton. That's a shame. Accusations of womanizing and charges that he finagled his way out of the Vietnam War draft have exacerbated Clinton's pretty-boy image. Tsongas seems the antidote; but as Tsongas himself will concede, the Arkansas governor is no airhead. Rhodes scholar, impeccably schooled (Georgetown, Yale), Clinton has plenty to say much of it worth listening to. He has been the good governor of what was once a miserable little state. But for now, Tsongas is the cleaner choice. His personal life seems impeccable. He beat the draft, but he went into the Peace Corps. He's had cancer and knows that everything that follows is a gift. If he is, on occasion, a bit smug and messianic, he has earned that privilege although, for me, one Jimmy Carter a lifetime is enough. Still, the overall impression is not of a sanctimonious man, but one who can laugh at himself. Paul Tsongas' dirty little secret, well hidden during the early television debates, is that he is a stitch. If comparisons have to be made to yet another Massachusetts ethnic, it shouldn't be Michael Dukakis but John F. Kennedy. Tsongas has that kind of wit. Every four years, New Hampshire seems to reappear like Brigadoon, and some miracle takes place. This year if only to give Clinton a degree of difficulty he seems to have earned New Hampshire Democrats may make Paul Tsongas the winner. "I have to tell you the economic truth," he told an audience in Portsmouth. "It's the only horse I can ride in this campaign." The man may not look like much, but that horse of his is a winner. Copyright, 1992, Washington Post Writers Group Makes You Feel Right at Home jpit? r r . collect"'" fcart (iv Kidif" 'Citi1"1"" Cartoonist Richard Guindon has entertained Detroit Free Press readers for years with his humorous, slightly wacky views of life in and around Detroit. Now yo can enjoy his latest offering, "Guindon: Michigan, So Far." This paperback comes in a unique coffee-table size (11 x 17) with high-quality color cover and contains 112 pages of great Guindon cartoons including 8 pages in color. Order yours today! ORDER FORM To order by phone using Visa or Mastercard, call 962-6657. Outside the 313 area code, call 1-800-245-5082, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri. or fill out the coupon below. Name Phone Address City State -Zip Send me books at $12.95 each. $ Postage and handling: $2.00 Total enclosed: $ Make check payable to: Detroit Free Press Books Mail to: Guindon, P.O. Box 441340, Detroit, Ml 48244-1340 Allow 7 days for delivery Detroit 4lfrcchrese

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