Black group shuns Seattle over affirmative action vote

Doctors move 2001 meeting because of Initiative 200

February 04, 1999|By SEATTLE TIMES

SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle has lost the 2001 convention of the nation's oldest and largest black physicians group because of the state's passage of Initiative 200, the ballot measure that rolled back public affirmative action programs.

The 20,000-member National Medical Association is the first minority organization to publicly pull its convention from Washington state because of I-200.

Seattle, however, continues to be a draw for other large African-American associations seeking a site for their annual meetings, a trend that Mayor Paul Schell says he intends to encourage.

Citing November's 58 percent vote in favor of I-200, the Washington, D.C.-based NMA announced Tuesday it was pulling its meeting from Seattle.

"Such legislative enactment is counter to the basic tenets upon which the National Medical Association was founded more than 100 years ago," said NMA executive director Lorraine Cole.

The NMA was formed after the American Medical Association refused to allow blacks as members or delegates to its meetings.

In response to the news, John Carlson, chairman of the I-200 campaign, said, "Unless their organization was founded on the tenets of racial quotas and preferences, they are seriously misreading Initiative 200, because that's all that prohibits."

I-200 bans state and local governments in Washington state from granting preferences based on race, ethnicity and gender in employment, contracting and educational programs.

The NMA had reserved the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle from July 27 to Aug. 2, 2001.

Ralph Goodman, a Seattle tourism official, said research shows the group's convention usually attracts 2,000 to 4,000 visitors. Unless another group takes its place, the Seattle economy would lose millions of dollars, he said.

Baltimore is among the cities the NMA is considering for its 2001 meeting.

Pub Date: 2/04/99

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