Black think tank looks at roles minorities can play in election '88. Center will question black mayors, public- and private-sector officials

How can black Americans gain political clout in the 1988 presidential election year? That's one question leaders at the Joint Center for Political Study are considering as this black think tank enters its 18th year. ``Black Americans can best help themselves through effective participation in the political and public-policy arenas,'' says Eddie N. Williams, the center's president. They ``can influence policymakers ... through cogent analyses on the social, economic, and political status of these Americans.''

Self-help and public-sector involvement are keys to calling national attention to black problems next year, Mr. Williams told a banquet audience recently.

This is the message of the center's latest publication, ``Black Initiative and Governmental Responsibility.'

' Williams calls it a guide for America's minority and poor people in their efforts to achieve equity in government and private sectors. He emphasized that blacks can best help themselves. But, he added, ``blacks can't do it without support from the mainstream in both private and public sectors.''

The center plans studies in three areas: political and social policy, and economic development.

``We plan to take an in-depth look at what black elected officials want from the nation's two major political parties,'' says Linda Williams, who is chief of political research for the Joint Center.

``We also plan to survey the outlook of 100 of the nation's most influential black people,'' she says. ``And we plan a third study: What black mayors see as avenues of opportunity for urban progress.''

In addition, the center will monitor voting this year and during presidential primaries in 1988, she says.

``Our goal is to present a clear picture of what black leaders see as priorities,'' Dr. Williams says. ``We want to create in-depth coverage and analysis of the 1988 presidential election.''

She says the center will survey black elected officials to find out what candidates they favor and what they see as key campaign issues.

It will ask black mayors in July what they see as black attitudes on various issues. ``Special consultants will do a case study of 13 cities led by black mayors and predominantly black city councils. We may take a look at the views of white mayors, too,'' she says.

The center may make a special study of Mayor Richard Hatcher, who is seeking a sixth term as mayor of Gary, Ind. He has been in office longer than any black mayor in a major city, she adds.

The center will climax its political research with a comprehensive midsummer report to be based on a three-year survey of black officials and black people and their priorities for the 21st century.

The black family will be the major topic of research for the social policy committee, Eddie Williams says. ``We plan a long look at welfare reform, at what appears to be a growing permanent black underclass, at black philanthropy or how well blacks support black causes.''

On the economic front the Joint Center will study the progress of minority businesses, he says. ``We plan to hold an unemployment conference in February 1988,'' he adds. ``We'll check out the changing structure of the American economy [and] training for blacks to meet the needs of the private sector and government.''

Founded in 1970 as a nonpartisan research organization to service black elected officials, the Joint Center also promotes the participation of blacks in government at every level.

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