Black mayors say cities need jobs, skilled workers, help for small businesses BALTIMORE CITY

April 08, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Creation of jobs and a work force skilled enough to perform them are among the most critical challenges facing cities, a panel of black mayors said here yesterday.

Cities must also encourage small- business development by providing investment capital and tax incentives and cutting governmental red tape, the mayors said.

"We often hear as elected officials that we do not care about small businesses. We hear we only care about major xTC businesses," said Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery. "[But] the future growth of jobs will be in the small-business area."

Mr. Tillery and seven other mayors participated in a "mayors' forum" that was part of the 10th annual meeting of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The mayors were asked by panel moderator and former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode to talk about the two most critical challenges facing their cities. All mentioned economic and employment development. Other concerns that were raised include crime, children's welfare and dissolution of the family.

Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly of Washington, D.C., said the two "linchpin challenges" she faces are "the dysfunctional family" and "the changing economic environment."

"You've got to be skilled to have any chance in this work force. But, realistically, people in the inner cities are ill-prepared for even semi-skilled jobs," she said.

"The pressure is upon us all," Mrs. Kelly added.

Her sentiments were echoed by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. Mr. Schmoke noted that a generation ago, his city's leading employer was Bethlehem Steel Corp. while today it is the Johns Hopkins Health System. Jobs in the health care field require a "much higher" level of literacy than those in the steel industry, he said. "We have to make sure all of our people are trained and have a high level of literacy and can go into these career jobs," Mr. Schmoke said.

He was the guest speaker at last night's awards banquet at the Hyatt Regency, which concluded the five-day convention of 1,200 African-American public administrators from across the country.

Also during yesterday's forum, in reply to a question, Mr. Schmoke drew applause when he repeated his position that drug use should be dealt with as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.

"I firmly believe our national drug control strategy is a failure," Mr. Schmoke said. "As long as we have that strategy, cities will continue to bleed."

Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, Ala., took a hard-line approach. "It's a matter of kicking a and taking names when it come to drugs in my city," said Mr. Ford.

Other mayors appearing on yesterday's panel were Sharpe James of Newark, N.J.; Rodney Long of Gainesville, Fla.; Paul H. Richards II of Lynwood, Calif.; and James H. Sills of Wilmington, Del.

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