Young strikes conciliatory note in Atlanta
Steps are already being taken to bridge the black-white split seen in this week's mayoral election runoff that left Andrew Young a victor with nothing close to a biracial consensus.
Voting was predominantly along racial lines. But in some mostly black precincts, white State Rep. Sidney Marcus got 6 to 17 percent of the votes, and in some mostly white precincts, Mr. Young got 6 to 25 percent of the white vote. Young got 56 percent of the total vote to 44 percent for Mr. Marcus.
In the last two weeks of the campaign, race became an open issue, though not nearly as much as it did eight years ago when Atlanta elected its first black mayor, incumbent Maynard Jackson. This time the most obvious references to race came from supporters of the black candidate, Young, including Mayor Jackson.
Atlanta is about two-thirds black, and 56 percent of the city's registered voters are black. Most major economic power remains in the hands of whites, and white businessmen overwhelmingly backed Marcus.
But there are early moves toward bridging the racial gap that reflects, in part, persistent mistrust and predjudice between the races here, as well as candidate preferences. They include:
* Mayor-elect Young says he sees an ''opportunity to bring our city together and to move it forward.'' He intends to meet soon with leaders of all segments of the city and listen to them. He also intends to appoint some kind of business advisory council.
* Downtown businessmen have prepared a detailed agenda for improving Atlanta's police, public housing, urban design, and other city-business projects , and will present this to Mayor Young soon after he takes office. Skeptical businessmen have much to gain by winning the mayor's support for city improvements, and are anxious to get a clear signal of willingness to cooperate from Young.
* City Council president Marvin Arrington has called a meeting of black and white city leaders to discuss ways to work together.
But it will take more than these moves to assure many white voters that Young will be fair to all.
The racial character of the vote is ''a reflection of the past 100 years,'' says Dan Carter, a history professor at nearby Emory University. There has been a long tradition of distrust between the races, he said.
Many blacks also see the mayor's post as one of the few leadership roles in the state for blacks, now that Young is no longer a US representative from here, says Mr. Carter. (Young also served as United Nations Ambasssador for President Carter.)
Local pollster Clairbourne Darden attributes the generally racial vote to the fact that each side was voting on a ''reasonable'' candidate.
Young's administration promises to be a blend of pragmatism, optimism, conciliation, and charisma, mixed with religious tones. In his first act as mayor-elect, Young, a former minister, asked for a prayer by Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The noisy room became silent during the prayer except for frequent, low-toned ''Amens.''
In his acceptance speech, Young said: ''This city is already together. The campaign put a little strain on it.''
Responding to concerns that Young lacks interest in tackling administrative details, a top Young aide replies: ''Andy is not going to count paper clips. But he will appoint people who can do that.''