Substance, not promises, needed in mayoral office

May 18, 1999|By Grady Dale and Helen Dale

THOUGH Kweisi Mfume left the NAACP board meeting this past weekend bound for Africa without leaving a hint about his political plans, his supporters here are fervently working to persuade him to launch a campaign for mayor shortly after he returns.

We desperately need someone of Mr. Mfume's stature and background to help reverse the city's decline. It's time for substance, not promises.

Our city's problems are well-documented -- from the meltdown of our criminal justice system to the state's involvement in our troubled schools. The biggest deficit we are suffering from is not necessarily of dollars, but rather one of hope.

A Mayor Mfume would be a wonderful example to youths of how hard work and education can help turn around even the most troubled lives.

Mr. Mfume emerged from humble beginnings in Turners Station and started down a road that seemed to lead inevitably to a life of crime. But by refusing to allow his circumstances to limit or define his destiny, Mr. Mfume was able to turn his life around.

Guided by a series of mentors, Mr. Mfume discovered that true power stems from knowledge. Already schooled in the lessons of the streets, Mr. Mfume sought the benefits of a higher education, graduating magna cum laude from Morgan State University. Several years later, he earned a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

Reaching back

Alone, these individual achievements are inspiring. But even more inspirational is Mr. Mfume's determination to put his knowledge and ability to work on behalf of the community, reaching back to help others like himself.

As a grass-roots organizer and radio talk-show host, Mr. Mfume brought Baltimoreans together to address the problems facing the community. As a member of the City Council for seven years, he led the fight for safer neighborhoods, increased minority business opportunities and for a city government that better reflected the population it served.

After his election to Congress, Mr. Mfume continued to focus on grass-roots concerns, including expanding the federal minority contracting program, strengthening the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and toughening anti-redlining laws.

He also recognized that all Americans, including urban residents, deserve to live free from fear of crime and violence. Mr. Mfume sponsored successful measures to ban assault weapons and to make stalking a federal crime.

Above all, Mr. Mfume's stellar leadership of the NAACP makes him a natural for the mayor's office.

A leader

Taking the reins of a venerable but crippled organization, Mr. Mfume presided over the elimination of a multimillion-dollar debt while raising standards of performance for local branches nationwide.

Today, our city cries out for the kind of spiritual regeneration that Mr. Mfume is uniquely qualified to provide. As a city councilman and a congressman, he proved a master of policy and politics. As NAACP president, he has shown the management ability needed to restore the embattled group to the national prominence and respect it deserves.

In every position of leadership he has held, Mr. Mfume has focused squarely on the needs and concerns of the community -- from pursuing safer neighborhoods to providing the jobs and business opportunities that people and communities need to thrive. And he has always been a source of inspiration to young people through his individual story and his commitment to opening the doors of opportunity to others.

For the young

In a very real sense, our young people are the future of Baltimore. Every day that passes with crime unabated and schools bereft, that future is more at risk. As the next mayor of Baltimore, Mr. Mfume will provide our young people -- and our entire community -- with a personal example to follow.

Most importantly, he has the leadership ability and experience necessary to help transform this city and its people.

Grady Dale, a clinical psychologist, and his wife, Helen Dale, president of Women for Responsible Government, are members of the Draft Mfume committee.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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