Ron Goldwyn, Philly.com, July 13, 2004
An unrepentant Mayor Street wants to update the NAACP convention with some hot old news:
In Philadelphia, the brothers and sisters are still in charge.
Street, in welcoming remarks yesterday to the 8,000-delegate gathering at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, recalled how he “got myself in trouble” in 2002.
“I said in the city of Philadelphia the brothers and sisters are in charge,” he declared. “They never let me forget it.”
Street apologized at the time. But yesterday he brought delegates to their feet roaring approval when he said he “will never apologize” for the appointments and opportunities he has provided for African-Americans.
“We should never be ashamed of supporting African-Americans,” he said.
Street said his advice to critics of his 2002 remarks was: “If you don’t like the brothers and sisters being in charge, you should register Republican.” He was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2003 with stronger white support than he received in 1999.
Street exhorted the delegates, “I will never apologize for [appointing] a black chief of staff, a black police commissioner, a black fire commissioner . . . ”
He went on to cite other city posts to which he has named minority officials. “If I can’t provide opportunity for African- Americans in this government, who will?” he asked.
Street made no mention of the federal indictment of former administration officials and political supporters for alleged “pay-for-play” influence peddling tied to city contracts.
But he did say, “We recognize responsible economic empowerment for African-Americans in this city.” He said his administration makes sure “minorities do business with the city of Philadelphia.”
Afterward, Street said President Bush was guilty of “bad politics” and “bad policy” for refusing to address the convention. He said Bush seemed to be “hijacked” by “right-wing” pressure groups to stay away.
“I think it was a missed opportunity for the president [and] a slight on the NAACP.”
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, in a fiery address, said Bush’s absence was a slight that would not be forgotten on Election Day.
“We will be there in every polling place and every battleground state,” Mfume said.
The NAACP, he said, will undertake a strategy aimed “entirely at unlikely voters and early voters,” meaning those who have skipped past elections and those who can’t make it to the polls but are eligible to vote absentee.
Mfume didn’t name names but accused Bush of recruiting “ventriliquist’s dummies” from minority communities to sing his praises. Mfume said if Bush “were willing to listen, he would hear our opinion of what it really means to be pro-family, why it’s really important to save Social Security and why smaller classrooms for students and day care for working parents must be more than a song or dance or a 20-second sound bite.”
The local welcomers included U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.; Bishop Ernest Morris, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity; and Minister Rodney Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam.