'Green era' blossoms in Philadelphia politics
Philadelphia — The City of Brotherly Love is beginning a new political era. Handsome jut-jawed former congressman William J. Green was inaugurated as the 125th mayor of Philadelphia Jan. 6 under the sparkling chandeliers of the Academy of Music, with nearly 3,000 well-wishers on hand. Notably absent from the ceremonies was former Mayor Frank Rizzo.
Mr. Green has pledged to undo the legacy of racial tension, high minority unemployment, and, his supporters have alleged, fiscal irresponsibility that have engulfed this city, the nation's fourth-largest, for the past eight years under Mr. Rizzo.
The outspoken, often ascerbic former mayor had tried unsuccessfully to amend the city charter so he could run for a third consecutive term. But in a special referendum 14 months ago voters turned down the did, paving the way for what is being called "the Green era." Last November, after emerging as the Democratic candidate, Mr. Green easily defeated his Republican rival in this overwhelmingly Democratic city of nearly 2 million people.
Te difference between the Green and Rizzo administrations will likely be even more marked than the personal styles of the two men, political observers here say. The new mayor is quiet spoken and cautious. Some even describe him as "Socratic." Mr. Rizzo often "shot from the hip" in his speech -- saying the first thing that popped into his thought -- whether before the TV cameras or in budget hearings or on the political stump.
Among the more pronounced changes from the old administration to the new:
* Mayor Green is naming blacks to key city positions. One of these early appointments is W. Wilson Goode, who will become the city's managing director, the operations supervisor of such key departments as police and fire. This is perhaps the most powerful of the mayor's four cabinet posts.
* For the first time in eight years, the Philadelphia Police Department will have a communications director, Donald Fair, who will be available for comment to the press and public on a round-the-clock basis. Mr. Fair says this is only the tip of the iceberg of the intended "snake-up" of the police department that Mayor Green is planning.
Mr. Rizzo spent 27 1/2 years on the force here, rising to the rank of commissioner before turning to politics, and ruled his former bailiwick with an iron hand. In the process, Philadelphia came to have one of the mostcriticized police departments in the nation, especially in terms of brutality and a void of black officers.
* A revamped local Democratic Party. David Clancy, the new chairman of the Philadelphia County Democratic Committee, says it will be "opened up not just to blacks and women, but to youth, too."
From the beginning, however, the Green administration will have its hands full.
Philadelphia has one of the highest black unemployment rates of any major US city -- between 15 and 20 percent, not including youth joblessness, which Robert W. Sorrell, president of th Urban League here, describes as "almost unbelievable." There also are some growing fiscal woes and, in the coming months , public-employee union negotiations that promise to be difficult.
But Mayor Green, despite his reserved manner, promises an "open" administration with regular news conferences to let people know how he and the city are doing. This step alone, it is noted, will be a radical difference between the old era and te new.
"Some of the real movers and shakers of Philadelphia are in the administration and certainly on the side of the administration, and that's another reason, I think, to be optimistic about the Green era," Mr. Sorrell says.
Mayor Rizzo, on the other hand, alienated many bankers and other top business people with his volatility and politics-of-confrontation style, especially on racial issues. This reflected badly on the city, some of these business leaders say.
Still, Mr. Sorrell cautions, "the bottom line" of the Green era will be what it accomplishes. "They've got some really good people to come into the administration," he says. "I hope they will be able to accomplish something.