William Penn himself would have voted for Philly's Mayor Goode
WHEN William Penn founded this city more than 300 years ago, he advocated religious tolerance, government free from the abuse of power, and the formation of a ''greene countrie towne.''
The Quaker father of Pennsylvania might not recognize his ''holy experiment'' today. But William Penn's values are still recognized by the new mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city. W. Wilson Goode, Philadelphia's first black mayor, refers to Penn when he speaks of the ''renaissance of the spirit'' he hopes to spark here.
''We need to believe in ourselves - believe that we are as good as William Penn thought we could be 300 years ago,'' says Mayor Goode in his spacious City Hall office. ''We need to go back to some of the ideals that Penn talked about.
''He saw (Philadelphia) as a city of industry, as a city of religious tolerance, as a city that was capable of solving its own problems. A city of creative leadership, a city of universities.''
Mr. Goode's vision for the City of Brotherly Love is similar. He plans to hold together his diverse coalition of labor, business, minorities, and whites and help Philadelphia surge ahead into the 21st century.
This task is not without challenges. Like other urban centers in the Northeast, Philadelphia needs to restructure some of its economic base. Although its center city, flush with construction work on office towers and a transit tunnel, is healthy and thriving with new service-sector jobs, the city's industrial base has slipped away, leaving a 20 percent unemployment rate among minorities. And Philadelphia lost half a million people in the last decade.
Goode also targets education as a priority - both for Philadelphia's youth and for adults. City statistics show that 44 percent of the city's population cannot read or write above a fourth-grade level, he notes.
Improvement of city services is a big issue, Philadelphians say. Transportation, housing, health programs, infrastructure, and city cleanliness are mentioned by politicians and residents alike.
In this city, home of the Liberty Bell and the always-devastating Philadelphia 76ers, Mayor Goode's election may complete the turn of Philadelphia politics from the controversial days of former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo.
Mr. Rizzo's two terms were marred by disclosures of police brutality, particularly against minorities. The former Philadelphia police chief tried to amend the city charter to allow himself a shot at a third consecutive term as mayor. City voters turned down the amendment nearly 2 to 1.
The election of Mayor William J. Green in 1980 was a ''breath of fresh air'' for politics here, says one political observer, and Wilson Goode is a further step in that transition.
Goode is currently the beneficiary of an ''enormous amount of public goodwill ,'' says Sandra Featherstone, a professor of urban politics at Temple University. And that will help him move his agenda. ''Even those who did not vote for him are predisposed to support him,'' she says.
During the primary and the general elections, Goode, formerly the managing director of the city, was an astute bridge builder. He represents a remarkable change in Philadelphia politics, not simply because he is black, but because of the way he won the job, observers say.
''He pulled together leading business people, labor, blacks, liberal whites, '' one political scientist points out. ''Some see him as an efficient manager; others see him as a spokesman for participatory democracy.''
There were not the bitter racial slurs in the Philadelphia campaign that were heard in the election of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.
As managing director of the city, Goode was well respected. And he geared his campaign to issues all sides could rally to, such as economic development and crime reduction.
''It was not radical rhetoric,'' Dr. Featherstone says. ''He wanted to be seen as a Philadelphian running in Philadelphia for Philadelphians.''
Goode won with 55 percent of the votes in the general election. He received 97 percent of the black vote and 25 percent of the white vote.
The mayor is aware of the current goodwill - and he also knows how fragile coalitions can be.
''There is a desire (among Philadelphians) to see things move and see things happen,'' he says. ''There is a receptivity on the part of people for good, strong leadership, which may not be here a year from now, two years from now. I try to take advantage of everything I can right now.''
The mayor does not want his color to predominate in his term, but he does see its significance in his election.
''It's important that we've been able to . . . have the city live out its motto and creed - the City of Brotherly Love,'' Goode says. ''There are few people now who think of me as a 'black mayor.' People basically see me as someone who has transcended my race and has become mayor of this city - and with that goes a great deal of hope that things will improve and become much better.''
With that also goes a lesson to young black people, the mayor says, that they can aspire to be the top official in their city.
''That's important,'' he says. ''There is nothing worse than feeling that because you are black, and because you are female, and because you are Asian, because you are Hispanic - that you can't really be what others can be.''
The mayor's appointments, so far, have reflected this philosophy. His cabinet is half men and half women, half black and half white.
What are his strengths and liabilities? Attributes used to describe him, from both sides of the political fence, almost always include honest, careful, intelligent, articulate, accessible, and as being a person with high standards and a sense of mission.
''He's an outstanding man,'' says Republican city councilman Thatcher Longstreth. ''As honest as the day is long.''
''This is a man who loves being mayor,'' says Theodore Hershberg, Mayor Goode's assistant on strategic planning and policy development. ''He relishes being out there with his sleeves rolled up. . . . (Goode) is an extremely able leader. If some of his goals are not reached, it will be a function of systemic problems, not his performance.''
Indeed some observers had worried that Goode's high standards and demands might be a drawback.
''There is a certain imperiousness that has bothered some,'' says one. ''Part of that is the very high standards he sets for himself.''
One problem Goode had while he was managing director was his inability to delegate authority, says Mr. Longstreth. But the councilman adds that he sees a loosening in Goode since he has become mayor.
''(The mayor) has a light touch I didn't know he had,'' Longstreth says.
Goode is straightforward when asked his strong and weak points. He begins with liabilities.
''I want everything to happen overnight,'' says Goode. ''There is an impatience with me with the status quo that sometimes may be a fault.''
But he is equally sure of his strong points.
''I can set the tone, a positive tone.
''I am organized enough to be able to articulate and set forth all the issues that we're really dealing with.
''I can motivate and inspire people to work with me to achieve things.
''And I can, I think, communicate to a lot of different groups.''
The average person on the street seems to warm to him and his accessibility. One hour a week Mayor Goode grants five-minute interviews with citizens. He is booked through August, an aide says.
''He's not just for blacks, but for all Philadelphians,'' says a construction worker near City Hall.
Some who have watched Goode for years in Philadelphia say he is an ambitious man. Look at his endorsement of Democratic presidential contender Walter F. Mondale, says one. ''He has an attractive future as a national personality.''
What does Goode say?
''I want to be a good mayor for eight years . . . and turn the city around. Then I want to go and write and reflect upon my life. And teach and share with young people.''
A slight smile plays on Goode's face as he adds, ''And (to) be the fountain of knowledge and wisdom.''
But one senses this mayor is actually quite serious.