Mayor W. Wilson Goode, hailed as a model mayor since his election in 1983, finds himself battling a barrage of bad publicity and questions about his judgment after the bombing assault by police Monday on a Philadelphia house occupied by MOVE cult members.
Many here are asking whether he should have authorized use of the bomb without first trying harder to negotiate an end to the standoff between the radical cult members and police officers.
The mayor dismissed such questions testily as “second guessing” at a news conference Tuesday.
Mayor’s Severest Trial
Nevertheless, the speculation and questions--many of them still unanswered--represent a trial for Goode, the most severe of his term.
Goode, the 46-year-old son of North Carolina sharecroppers, rose from a cart pusher in a cigar factory to become Philadelphia’s first black mayor, defeating Frank L. Rizzo, the city’s controversial former mayor and police commissioner, in the 1983 Democratic mayoral primary. Since his subsequent election, his highly personal and generally candid stewardship of the nation’s fifth-largest city has been dominated mostly by success stories.
On his way to City Hall, Goode earned a degree in public administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the respect of both blacks and whites for his no-nonsense approach to solving city problems.
Held State Post
That reputation was solidified during Goode’s tenure as the city’s managing director and earlier as head of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
But, Tuesday, Goode’s decision on the bombing overshadowed all else.
In restaurants and on the streets, Philadelphians were asking whether the mayor had been too hasty.
Uncharacteristically, the usually somber mayor has become the butt of a macabre joke: “How does mayor Goode move MOVE? Answer: He moves the neighborhood.”
And Frances Drake, a spokesman for the Urban Coalition, which was trying to negotiate with MOVE, complained that Goode, who previously has been known as a patient and thorough man, “didn’t allow us to go far enough” in the talks.
City Councilman John White Jr. sees in the MOVE incident a salient point about the city’s first black mayor. “People expect a lot more from him” than from his white predecessors, White said.
Puts in 16-Hour Days
The mayor has set high standards for himself, putting in 16-hour workdays and relying heavily on his own judgment rather than on advisers. Some here have even accused him of surrounding himself with weak subordinates to spotlight his own capabilities.
During the often-contentious news conference, a testy Goode repeatedly and almost doggedly accepted responsibility for the decision to bomb the building. And, at one point, he declared: “This mayor tells the truth and does not deceive anybody.”
White, a councilman since 1981 and a childhood resident of the burned-out section of the city, called Goode “accessible” but added that he “sometimes makes political decisions without touching base with friends.”
Researcher Barclay Walsh in the Times’ Washington Bureau contributed to this article.