Goode hopes to rise from political ashes of MOVE bombing
Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode is fighting to regain the respect that marked his first year in office. When Mr. Goode became the city's first black mayor in 1984, he was viewed with goodwill by nearly all Philadelphians. Even opponents praised his first year, although some said he avoided conflict. Since the MOVE incident in which 11 members of the radical group were killed, Goode has been beset by criticism.
One of the most embarrassing political aftermaths of the MOVE incident has been the inability of the city to fulfill its promise to rebuild the 61 homes that were destroyed.
After the loss of the West Philadelphia neighborhood, Goode pledged the families would be in new homes by Christmas. But only seven homes are completed, there are charges of sloppy workmanship, no families have moved in, and the developer was declared in default.
The mayor used a televised apology Sunday night, and a Monday morning news conference to come to grips with the continuing effects of last year's May 13 police siege on the headquarters of the MOVE group.
``The most important thing [now] is to regain momentum, and I will use all my energy and all my management skills to [that end],'' Mayor Goode said. In the news conference he talked about last week's scathing special commission report on the MOVE incident. In the commission's findings, Goode was called ``grossly negligent'' in his handling of the affair.
The mayor did not directly respond to the report's comments on his actions during the crisis. Instead, Goode said momentum was his top priority. And he repeated that he would not resign and he would not discuss whether he will seek reelection next year, saying that ``1987 will take care of itself.''
Goode, a Democrat, has found himself defending his ability to govern the nation's fifth-largest city. Some critics have said the aftermath of the MOVE debacle could force him from office. ``I will never quit,'' Goode said last week. ``I don't intend to do anything but go out there and redouble my efforts.''
But Goode faces tough going in the months before the election. There are potential challengers from both the Democratic and Republican camps. Most are likely to bring up Goode's performance during the MOVE crisis -- which Goode admits was marred by bad judgment -- as a campaign issue.
Goode deflected some political questions and refused to comment on possible indictments, other than to say: ``I do not feel I will be indicted. I do not feel there is a reason for me to be indicted.''
The mayor did say his administration would cooperate fully with any further investigations. District Attorney Richard Castille has said he may look into a grand jury investigation based on the commission report. The report said the deaths of the MOVE children ``appear to be unjustified homocide.''
Goode said he could not conceive of another situation where he would allow a bomb to be dropped in a city crisis. He said when he decided to take firm action, he wanted to avoid a repeat of a 1978 confrontation with MOVE, in which a policeman died.
During the incident, the police department dropped a bomb on the MOVE row house. The resulting fire killed five children and six adults. It also destroyed 61 homes in the West Philadelphia neighborhood.
Goode, once viewed as one of the most promising black politicians in the country, also admits that the incident has affected his administration. But he will not blame it for certain log jams the city currently faces, such as an unresolved debate over what to do with the city's trash as landfills are closed. And at the end of this week, a transit strike looms as the contract for the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority expires.
The mayor's rating in polls has dropped significantly since he took office. When commission hearings were completed last fall, his approval rating stood at around 60 percent, according to a television poll. A poll taken last week indicated his support had dropped to 41 percent.
And some Philadelphians have changed their mind about the city's first black mayor. ``I don't think he should resign now, but I don't think he should run next year,'' says a young man on his way to work.
Others continue to support Goode. City Councilman Edward Schwartz says Goode offered substantial proposals in yesterday's news conference, and he let the public know he is back making decisions. ``I don't think I or the citizens of the city want to spend the next decade mired in the MOVE incident.''
Goode's actions yesterday included the appointment of an executive management group to review the commission recommendations. The group is to respond to each of the commission's 38 recommendations to the mayor, to oversee the implementation of the final recommendations, and to coordinate responses of the city on any MOVE-related matters.
The commission report also heavily criticized the then city managing director Leo A. Brooks and Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sanbor. Both men have since resigned.
At yesterday's press conference, current Police Commissioner Kevin Tucker told of changes being made in the police force as a result of the MOVE incident.