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Goode's competence issue in primary race

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Philadelphia's image suffers from a paradox, and it is likely to be a factor in tomorrow's mayoral primary. On one hand there is new development and a revived economy, epitomized by the appearance of skyscrapers in the city. On the other, there is the unforgettable picture of a neighborhood burned to the ground in the 1985 MOVE confrontation, an image that made front pages around the world.

Voters here no doubt will have these two images in mind when they go to the polls. And, despite a general effort to keep it in the background, the issue of race will also be a factor in the City of Brotherly Love.

Mayor W. Wilson Goode, who was elected the city's first black mayor nearly four years ago on a tide of goodwill and hope, faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Edward G. Rendell, a liberal former Philadelphia district attorney, who charges that Mr. Goode's mismanagement has hurt the city.

And on the Republican side, former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo is trying to revive his power base after switching parties. He is being closely chased by John J. Egan Jr., former chairman of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

Polls show Goode ahead in the Democratic campaign, and most observers predict he will go on to reelection in the fall. But Goode's critics and investigative bodies looking into the MOVE incident have attacked his administration as inept. The two daily newspapers have declined to endorse him.

``The issue is, simply, incompetence,'' says Jack Nagel, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dissent over resource recovery plans, a perception that city services are deteriorating, and housing woes combine with the trauma of the MOVE tragedy to tarnish Goode's image in some people's eyes.

Others say there are few actual issues at stake. Goode and Mr. Rendell do not differ greatly on substance.

``I think people will vote far more on the perception of style,'' says Sandra Featherman, director of the Center for Public Policy at Temple University, who also sees race as a significant undercurrent.

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