Sunday, November 02, 2014

This is Not a Goode Republican

Wilson Goode with Joann Stevens. In Goode Faith: Philadelphia’ First Black Mayor Tells His Story. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press., 1992.

When Goode moved to Philadelphia from North Carolina, s share cropper’s son, he found the Philadelphia school system “damaged and nearly broke” his will by not letting him take college bound courses. God gave his courage to apply to college and to go to Morgan State where he was “nurtured and motivated”.

Goode worked for the Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement. He found it a “dying agency” that he turned around and helped secure $60 million for building housing units

Goode was appointed to the Public Utility Commission. He then became Philadelphia’s Managing Director and then its Mayor. He fought Frank Rizzo who had made Philadelphia “a police state”. He recalls the MOVE incident a one that “haunts me, sickens me. I believe the decision to let the fire burn unchecked was a travesty of justice and a blatant act of racism.”

Goode found the Holy Spirit while a student at Morgan State. He realized God guided his life. While at college, Goode was among those arrested for attempting to enter a whites-only movie theater.

Goode completed ROTC at Morgan State and was a Lieutenant at Fort Gordon. He experienced more segregation in Augusta, Ga. Goode could not follow his men, for whom he was in charge, when they went into a segregated club.

Goode refused to back up one of his fellow soldier’s false report where he denied beating up a prisoner. Goode saw it as the need for soldiers to follow the military code of conduct. Some soldiers viewed Goode as not supporting one of his fellow soldiers.

Goode was allowed to use his political science skills in defending clients appearing before military court. He studied the military laws. After winning an acquittal, Goode was removed from his post because the military assumed everyone charged was guilty.

Goode became a Probation Officer. He was told he was not a social worker. He was criticized for spending too much time with the children.

In 1996, Goode began work for he Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement. He later became its Housing Director. He discovered there is a lot of unpredictability in housing programs. When once told the organization was allowed to build condominiums but not row houses, Goode suggested submitted an application for a condominium of 24 attached houses. The houses was approved.

Goode was among those fighting a plan by State Rep, James O’Donnell to turn a folding factory site into a halfway house. Many of the residents wanted a park. Frank Rizzo, who was planning on running for Mayor, appeared and told the residents they would get their park.

Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Deputy Mayor Goldie Watson old Goode hat Rizzo would not approve any project Goode was involved in. Rizzo supported his friends and refused to help those he did not like. Goode’s name was removed from all applications. Goode notes “it was on this point that Rizzo erred more. The government doesn’t belong to any elected official. It belongs to the people. And in a democracy, you must be able to disagree, have different opinions, and still fully participate in the fruits of democracy.”

Goode earned a Masters in Governmental Administration from the Wharton School, attending classes at night.

Goode became a founding member of the Black Political Forum led by John F. White, Jr. It supported State Rep. Hardy Williams for Mayor. Williams lost the primary to Rizzo. The Black Political Forum then helped elect David Richardson to the legislature.

Goode was appointed to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). In a dispute between Helen O’Bannon and Lou Carter who both wanted to become Chair, the Governor appointed Goode as Chair,

As PUC Chair, Goode sent back $50,000 in unused funds to the general budget. He refused to allow PUC representatives attend a conference because it was in Las Vegas. Good held hearing on the Three Mile Island crisis where he found the utility executives as “shameful”.

Mayor Bill Green named Wilson Goode as Managing Director. Green gave Goode freedom to operate as he saw best.

When Goode learned no one knew how many leased vehicles the city owned, he required them to b parked at Veterans Stadium. The visual of this amazed the public

green sought a professional government. This was unlike the previous patronage government of Rizzo.

Goode learned tht my basic nature was that of an advocate of defender of the underdog.” He worked on helping homeless people.

A number of people approached Goode to challenge Mayor Green’s reelection as Mayor. Goode told Green he was running as Goode resigned as Managing Director. Green later decided not to seek reelection. In the primary, Goode received 98% of the Black vote and 22% of the white vote as he defeated Rizzo. Rizzo endorsed Goode in the general election. Goode then defeated Republican John Egan and Independent Tom Leonard in the general election.

As Mayor, Goode established the Economic Roundtable where business leaders could tell Goode o their “needs and concerns”.

Goode found Council President Joseph Coleman as a “weak leader” who allowed Councilman “David Cohen to call the shots” along with Council members John Street and Lucien Blackwell. They stopped creating a trash to steam plant in South Philadelphia. Goode gave Cohen six months to determine an alternative, which Goode later stated was a mistake on his part.

Goode created the Anti-Graffiti Network which successful turned graffiti writers into wall artists.

The MOVE fire stunned many including Goode. Goode writers, if he had known, he would never have allowed the dropping of an incendiary device on their roof.

Goode defeated Ed Rendell in his primary for reelection by 14 percentage points. Goode won 97% of the Black vote and 12% of the white vote. He defeated Rizzo, running as a Republican in the general election.

The City of Philadelphia ran into fiscal trouble. In 1991 its bonds received junk status.

Goode also found media “nitpicking” as “disheartening.”


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