Young likely to be reelected despite rumbles of dissatisfaction
Atlanta — Andrew Young is expected to easily win reelection as Atlanta's mayor on Tuesday. But his likely landslide victory hides an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among many voters with his first term.
Mayor Young has made himself politically invincible by combining his natural constituency among black voters -- two-thirds of the populace -- with a strong appeal to the white business establishment.
Dan Sweat, head of the downtown planning group Central Atlanta Progress, estimates that 90 percent of the city's business leaders support the mayor, compared with perhaps 10 percent in 1981.
``He has a kind of vision,'' says Mr. Sweat, ``and he does such a good job of representing the city.''
Richard Stogner, former head of the city's Office of Economic Development, says, ``As a practitioner of economic development, I could sell Andy every day. He can charm the socks off anyone.''
By contrast, the former UN ambassador's opponents are a private detective and a tire salesman, neither of whom has held elective office. Estimates of voter turnout run as low as 15 percent.
But Young's aggressive wooing of business has alienated part of his old base among young white liberals. During his first term, Young has switched positions on two controversial in-town highway projects, which he once opposed. One of these, the so-called Presidential Parkway, involves access to the planned library for former President Carter's papers. Young's role in promoting the project continues to arouse bitter feelings.
In addition, he spent a significant portion of his first term traveling, promoting the city. David Franklin, a close Young adviser, notes, ``Andy travels a lot, and that hurts when he comes back and is so tired [that] the train of thought, the concentration, isn't there.''
The effects of Young's absences are compounded by a failure to delegate authority. Even Mr. Sweat, who admires the mayor, says, ``There's been a real decline in the speed and efficiency with which projects are completed under Andy. No one is following through all the way.''
Young rejects the notion that his administration has been slow to pursue projects. But he admits, ``When I get into problems, it's usually because somebody hasn't delegated enough or because an assignment was made and nobody checked on it and things just kind of fell through the cracks.''
``His style is crisis-oriented, coming in at the last moment to solve a problem,'' says one local judge, tracing the mayor's style to his civil-rights days. ``It's the negotiator's style, performing miracles. But you can't function that way as mayor.''
Commenting on the lack of serious opposition to the mayor, Eudora Rogers, head of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, notes Young has ``charisma and definite leadership capabilities that are very appealing to people.'' But she also cites a state law requiring officeholders to surrender their current posts when seeking another. If the law were changed, she says, ``We might see some better qualified candidates.''