Book Release: Black Mayors and Policy Responsiveness: A Case Study of Community Economic Development Block Spending

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Book Release: Black Mayors and Policy Responsiveness: A Case Study of Community Economic Development Block Spending

I am proud to announce the publication of my book, Black Mayors and Policy Responsiveness: A Case Study of Community Economic Development Block Grant Spending by Lambert Publishing on Amazon (ISBN: 978-3-659-79090-4). My curiosity related to urban development, public policy, leadership and politics in relation to the African American experience has been and continues to be of significant interest to me. The book represents one of a few studies which seek to analyze community development program expenditures to gauge the extent to which Black mayors attempt to address specific policy needs expressed by Blacks through the electoral process in four majority Black cities.

I encourage you to purchase and read the book and share with others. Thank You.

Book Overview

The social landscape of the United States is made up of many ethnic and racial groups who compete for power and resources.  In a social democracy like America, unorganized groups are at a disadvantage in both the political and economic arenas.  Power and influence are manifested when an organized group collectively pools its resources toward achieving a common goal.

Throughout American history, various racial and ethnic groups have used the democratic framework of governance to secure resources for their specific interests.  Political power, in particular, has been viewed as a primary vehicle for advancing social and economic group interests.  This strategy for group advancement has been embraced most enthusiastically by Black residents in urban communities.

The struggle to achieve political and economic incorporation for African Americans has been a constant battle.  Conflict over how this goal would best be achieved dates back to the classic debate between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois in the early twentieth century.  Washington argued that the best way to achieve incorporation was through self-help strategies designed to build a self-sustaining Black community.  Through such a strategy, political and economic strength would follow.

In contrast, Du Bois argued that Blacks could not gain economic self-sufficiency without influencing public policy through the use of the electoral process (Reed, 1999).  While these two arguments still resonate strongly today, it is safe to say that the position of Du Bois emerged as the primary strategy used by Blacks.

Particularly since the 1960s, Blacks have faithfully used electoral politics in an attempt to alter conditions in the Black community.  The major urban issues that concern most inner-city Blacks are largely reflected in their living conditions; to name a few, a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, low-income jobs, and poor educational systems.  The rule of thumb for politics is “quid pro quo,” but this has not been the case for Blacks.  Instead, “Black Americans are never specifically rewarded for their overwhelming support for candidates for public office” (Anderson 1994, p. 35).  Despite the loyalty of the Black electorate, Black-elected officials have supported policies that are often in conflict with the needs of the Black community.

The struggle of the civil rights movement, which eventually led to the election of Black mayors, was predicated upon electing political representation that Blacks perceived would implement re-distributive policies that addressed their specific needs.  Keller (1978) summarized this observation when he states “Communities that have elected Black mayors have done so largely because Blacks had become an active and viable political force and because there was a widespread feeling among them that city government under previous White-led regimes had administered social services in an inequitable manner, to the disadvantage of Blacks and other minorities.  By electing a Black mayor, it was generally felt this pattern could be reversed”.

This belief has not translated into the eradication of the social and economic ills facing the Black community.  As a result, Blacks have become more cynical about participation in the political process as a means to address their concerns.  Many are left wondering where they can get their issues addressed and how they may enhance the quality of their lives.

This reality for inner-city Blacks is characterized by severe problems such as a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, low-wage jobs and poor educational systems.   The civil rights movement was partly predicated upon the assumption that electing Black political representation would lead to policies that addressed the specific needs of the Black community.  Decades have passed since the election of the first Black mayor.  Many researchers have argued that Black political incorporation has done little to eradicate the social and economic ills facing the Black community.

Researchers have also argued that, because of economic constraints facing cities, Black mayors cannot focus on re-distributive needs despite the participation of Blacks in the electoral process.  Instead, they argue that these mayors (like most mayors) must focus more on developmental policies that contribute to the city’s tax base.  Given the history of Blacks in America, the confidence placed in Black officials, and the assumption that they will act on behalf of the Black community, it is appropriate to examine re-distributive policy implementation in cities with Black mayors.

This study explores the degree to which Black mayors have engaged in re-distributive policy-making by analyzing the expenditure outcomes of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in four cities headed by Black mayors (i.e. Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; New Orleans, Louisiana, and Washington, DC).

The analysis reveals that Black administrations in the four selected cities allocated more towards re-distributive activities when compared to CDBG spending nationally and expenditure patterns in the top twenty entitlement cities.  These findings suggest that policy redistribution is a matter of political choice and that a redirection in expectations of the Black community may be needed as it relates to re-distributive accountability and the electoral process.

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