Leadership must come from the topHolly Selby's June 15...

the Forum

June 30, 1995

Leadership must come from the top

Holly Selby's June 15 article "Talking through the pain oracial dissonance," quotes Rep. Kweisi Mfume as replying to one woman's plea for politicians to "lead the way toward better racial understanding between races" as follows:

"Let me suggest to you -- and remind myself -- that leadership comes from the bottom up. If we wait for our leaders, [including the members of Congress present] then we are doing ourselves a disservice."

Representative Mfume surely knows better than that. He usually makes good sense and he has demonstrated a capacity to grow from the time he first entered the public service.

I don't always agree with him but I do respect him and what he has to say. But if the above is accurate and not a distortion and if he did not, as they say, "misspeak," he spoke gibberish.

Representatives are supposed to lead. The jobs pay well enough to attract the best and the brightest of those of us who have a desire to make their own contributions to the world about us.

A representative's election supports a general presumption that he was elected because the voters have confidence in his or her intelligence, abilities, values, vision -- to act in their interest better than they can themselves.

Further, representatives can devote themselves full-time to their work and are furnished able, salaried staffs and appropriate facilities to help them do their work.

The congressman knows full well that leadership should come from the top down, not "from the bottom up."

Leadership should not be confused with advocating popular whims or even firmly held views of constituents if the representative's best judgment is that the public interest lies in a different direction.

The representative's job then is to inform the electorate and to try to persuade it to share his or her view.

Idealistic? Yes! Far better to go down in defeat with integrity intact than to follow the all-too-common practice of voting what pollsters determine is the temporal majority wish of the constituents.

The former would be real leadership. It might get to be a habit and rub off on others.

What Mr. Mfume should strive for and work for "from the bottom up" is a well-informed electorate anxious to find optimum solutions to our common problems and able to discriminate wisely between unworthy candidates who cater to its biases and emotions and those who will serve their and their neighbors' long-term interests.

Jack S. Futterman

Ellicott City

HUD is wrong

All of us working to improve Baltimore's neighborhoods welcome HUD's new national effort to increase home ownership. But one simple way for HUD to do that would be to revamp its current foreclosure policy, which is inflicting great damage on dozens of neighborhoods throughout Baltimore.

HUD winds up with the house when families that received FHA loans lose their homes to foreclosure, which happens hundreds of times a year in metropolitan Baltimore. The problem arises when HUD resells the house "as is," rather than fixing it up to make it attractive to a new homeowner. Local HUD officials admit that 50 percent of the time the houses are sold to absentee investors thus undermining resident ownership in the neighborhoods.

The philosophy driving HUD's ''Property Disposition Department,'' which is responsible for reselling the houses, says: "Sell the house as fast as possible for as much as you can and get the cash back into the kitty.'' There is literally no concern for the neighborhoods where these houses are located nor for the damage that is done to these neighborhoods when residential ownership declines.

The irony is that HUD's single-family operation actually makes money. There is no compelling financial reason for HUD to behave the way it does. If HUD is serious about increasing home ownership, it should first clean out its own house.

Vincent P. Quayle

Baltimore

The writer is director of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.

Blacks in the GOP

In a June 15 article, "I'm a lonely brother in the GOP," Robert C. Gumbs asserted that, as a black Republican, he is one of a kind.

From Victor Clerk, the second vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and a member of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee, to Mary Jackson, who was elected to serve as judge of the Anne Arundel Orphan's Court, to Michael Steele, chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee, not only are there many black Republicans in Maryland, but many of them serve in leadership positions.

In addition, some of our 1994 Republican candidates were black, as are several Baltimore City candidates this year.

The philosophy of the Republican Party, advocating limited government and lower taxes, is often echoed by Baltimore City residents (Democrats and Republicans alike) seeking to empower themselves and take back their city.

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