Wilson Goode

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Wilson Goode
95th Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In office
January 2, 1984 – January 6, 1992
Preceded by Bill Green, III
Succeeded by Ed Rendell
Personal details
Born (1938-08-19) August 19, 1938 (age 75)
Nationality American
Political party Democratic

Willie Wilson Goode (born August 19, 1938) was the first black mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served from 1984 to 1992, a period which included the controversial MOVE police action and house bombing in 1985. Goode was also a community activist, commissioner for the state Public Utility Commission, and managing director for the City of Philadelphia.

Early life[edit]

Goode was born into a family of tenant farmers in North Carolina, arriving in Philadelphia in 1954. After graduating from John Bartram High School in January, 1957, he earned his degree from Morgan State University. (January graduations in Philadelphia, a post war practice to help reduced crowding, ended with the class of January, 1965 - which included one of Goode's sisters.) After serving as co-founder of the Black Political Forum, and manager of the unsuccessful 1971 mayoral campaign of State Representative Hardy Williams, he earned a master's degree in government administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

Service with the Public Utility Commission[edit]

After African-American state senators complained that there had never been an African-American member of the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) [1], Governor Milton Shapp began actively searching for one. His aide, Terry Dellmuth, knew Goode from his community and political activities and recommended him. Shapp (in Goode's judgment, perhaps mistaking him for someone else) nominated him and the state senate,[citation needed] despite its record of obstructing Shapp's PUC choices, confirmed him.

As a PUC commissioner, Goode met with community groups around the state, studied relevant issues, compiled what was seen as a pro-consumer record, and forged good working relations with his fellow commissioners. He was soon elevated to the chairmanship of the PUC, where he continued his pro-consumer policies but worked to limit PUC expenditures.

Work in the Office of the Mayor[edit]

Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green, who had been elected in November 1979, had promised to appoint a black managing director after winning a racially divisive Democratic primary against former deputy mayor Charles Bowser. Green kept his promise by appointing Goode as managing director at the urging of members of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and key members of the black community. Goode used this position to make himself extremely visible, frequently attending community events all over the city.[citation needed]

Mayor of Philadelphia[edit]

During the primary election of 1982, Green decided not to seek re-election when his wife, Patricia, became pregnant. Goode jumped into the race and defeated former Mayor Frank Rizzo in a racially polarized primary election. Goode went on to win the general election over former Green fund-raiser and Philadelphia Stock Exchange Chairman John Egan, the Republican Party nominee.

Goode continued his heavy public schedule as Mayor. However, he failed to sell City Council on the necessity of a trash-to-steam plant to avoid using landfills, and the economics of landfill use soon changed, lowering landfill costs and raising incineration costs, making a trash-to-steam plant too expensive to be feasible.[citation needed]

Goode's tenure as mayor was marred in the spring of 1985 by the MOVE confrontation, in which police attempted to clear a building in West Philadelphia inhabited by a radical back-to-nature group whose members, under the leadership of founder John Africa, had long been a nuisance to the city by shouting slogans and statements from a megaphone at all hours, ignoring city sanitation codes, assaulting neighbours, and barricading themselves in houses when law enforcement came to enforce them.[1] During the final assault on the building, the police dropped an improvised bomb made of C-4 plastic explosive and Tovex, an explosive gel used in underwater mining. This caused the house to catch fire, and ignited a massive blaze which eventually consumed almost 4 city blocks, killed 11 people, and left 240 people homeless.

While public opinion initially supported Goode,[citation needed] an investigation by a commission appointed by Goode held extensive public hearings in which Goode's judgement was held up to public scrutiny. The negative publicity helped elect Republican Ron Castille as city district attorney in 1985 and encouraged Ed Rendell, a former district attorney and an unsuccessful 1986 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, to oppose Goode for the Democratic mayoral nomination in 1987. Goode defeated Rendell for the nomination and then defeated Rizzo, who became the Republican nominee, in the general election. In both primary and general elections, Philadelphia's black voters stuck by Goode, although with less enthusiasm than he had aroused in 1983.

During the Green Administration, the city budget had been balanced; the first few years of Goode's tenure caused the city to go into debt again, this time deeply, and the fiscal troubles continued throughout his tenure.[citation needed] In an attempt to re-balance the city's budget, Goode pushed through tax increases that raised the city's wage tax to an all-time high of 4.96 percent.[citation needed] Yet despite this record tax increase, on the day Goode finally left office Philadelphia was only twenty-seven days away from being insolvent—bankrupt—and Moody's gave its municipal bonds junk bond ratings. His successors, Edward G. Rendell and John Street were able to reduce the city wage tax incrementally and impart a degree of fiscal health to the Philadelphia city government.[citation needed]

Election of 1991[edit]

In the election of 1991, Goode was unable to maintain Philadelphia's black vote as a unified bloc. A well-funded and highly publicized attempt to purge Philadelphia City Councilman-at-Large David Cohen, a leading critic of Goode's trash-to-steam proposal, backfired as Cohen came in first in total votes in the 1987 Democratic primary for the five council-at-large seats to be filled, setting an all-time record for most votes received for that position in a Democratic primary. (Fourteen years later, Goode was the only former Mayor of Philadelphia to attend Councilman Cohen's funeral. Goode's son and Cohen's City Council colleague, Wilson Goode, Jr., eulogized Cohen at a special memorial service held in Philadelphia's City Council.)

In the race to succeed Goode as mayor in 1991, the Democratic primary contest was between former Councilman Lucien Blackwell, a Goode loyalist; George Burrell, a Goode critic allied with Congressman William Gray; and James White, Goode's managing director, Ed Rendell, and Peter Hearn, a former chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. White withdrew before the primary and Rendell won the nomination.

Post-mayoral life[edit]

Goode stayed active after leaving as mayor by attending community meetings, hosting a radio show on WDAS[disambiguation needed], and holding mid-level positions in the U.S. Department of Education. He became active for a time in the personal development programs of Landmark Education, including the Landmark Forum, a successor to est. He earned a Doctor of Ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary,[2] and became a minister, professor at Eastern University, a leader of advocacy for faith-based initiatives, and leader of outreach to prisoners. He currently serves as a senior adviser to Public/Private Ventures where he oversees Amachi, a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents. He was recently awarded the Purpose Prize, a $100,000 award given to exceptional individuals over age 60 who are working to address critical social problems.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "It Looks Just Like a War Zone" By Frank Trippett, Time Magazine, Sunday, June 24, 2001 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,141842,00.html#ixzz2Ifp1aprq
  2. ^ "Reverend Dr. W. Wilson Goode, Sr". Thepartnership.us. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Green, III
Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1984–1992
Succeeded by
Ed Rendell