Saturday, February 21, 2009

Former Mayor David Dinkins

David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) was the Mayor of New York City from 1990 through 1993, being the first African American to hold that office. He is the most recent Democrat to have been elected Mayor of New York City. Dinkins was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey by his mother and grandmother, his parents having divorced when he was seven years old. He attended Trenton Central High School, where he graduated in 1945 in the top 10 percent of his class. After graduation, he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but was told that a racial quota had been filled. After serving briefly in the United States Army he joined the Marines.[1] Dinkins graduated from Howard University with a degree in Mathematics, graduating magna cum laude, and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, the nation's oldest inter-collegiate fraternity for African American men. He later graduated from Brooklyn Law School.[1] [edit] Political career Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlem and became part of an influential group of African-American politicians that included Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, Denny Farrell, and Charles Rangel. As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971. He served briefly in the New York State Legislature and for many years as New York City Clerk. He was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed. He was elected Manhattan Borough President in 1985 on his third run for that office. He was elected the city's mayor on November 7, 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others to win the Democratic nomination and going on to narrowly defeat Rudy Giuliani, the Republican candidate. [edit] Mayoralty Dinkins entered office pledging racial healing throughout what he called the "gorgeous mosaic" of New York's diverse communities. Many New Yorkers felt that his low-key personality, which contrasted so sharply with that of his predecessor, along with the symbolic aspect of his being the city's first black mayor, might ease racial tensions. Instead, Dinkins' term was marked by polarizing events including the 1991 Crown Heights Riot and the boycott of a Korean-owned grocery in Flatbush. He was accused of restraining the police during the Crown Heights Riot. His critics have described him as weak and indecisive, if well-intentioned, at best. He was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration, although crime actually declined during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30 year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued well beyond his term.[2][3] Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%.[4] [edit] Economic policy Dinkins became mayor with a $1.8 billion budget deficit when he entered office. He attempted to balance the budget and raised taxes. High oil prices due to the Gulf War and an overall downturn in the economy did not help the economic health of the city. 300,000 private sector jobs were further lost during Dinkins's administration, eroding the city’s tax base. His handling of the city's finances was criticized as being too beholden to unions and other lobbying groups.[citation needed] Investment was at an all time low. His integrity came under fire, as well as his efficacy. In response to his failure to file (or pay) income taxes for five years earlier in his career, Salon magazine later reported, Dinkins said, "I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law." In 1991, New York was unable to pay city employees. The Dinkins administration proposed unprecedented cuts in public services, $1 billion in tax increases and the elimination of 27,000 jobs. He cut education by $579 million, marked 10 homeless shelters for closing which was opposed by the city council. Just a year later, however, the city had a $200 million dollar surplus. In 1991, Dinkins signed a law which made it illegal for companies in New York City to do business with companies in Northern Ireland that discriminated against Catholics. In that same year, he hosted an unprecedented open house event in which 1400 people came to City Hall to speak with city officials. 1,058 suggestions, 216 problems, and 258 other comments were recorded. Fewer than one percent of the suggestions were considered for implementation. In 1993, Dinkins lost to Republican Rudy Giuliani, earning only 46 percent of the vote, down from 51 percent in 1989. Dinkins' departure from office at the end of 1993 made him the last Democratic mayor of New York City as of 2008[update], a city where party affiliations are overwhelmingly Democratic. During his final days in office, Dinkins made last-minute negotiations with the sanitation workers, presumably to preserve the public status of garbage removal. Incoming mayor Giuliani blamed Dinkins for a "cheap political trick" when Dinkins planned the resignation of Victor Gotbaum, Dinkins' appointee on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing his replacement six months in office.[5] Dinkins also signed a last minute 99-year lease with the USTA National Tennis Center, including strict limitations on flights in and out of neighboring LaGuardia Airport during the US Open. A less restrictive lease was renegotiated after he left office. [edit] Later career Dinkins was subsequently given a professorship at Columbia University. Although he has not attempted a political comeback, Dinkins has remained somewhat active in politics, and his endorsement of various candidates, including Mark J. Green in the 2001 Mayoral race, was well-publicized. In some of his actions, such as the Green endorsement, he has been in conflict with Al Sharpton. He supported Democrat Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York mayoral election. In the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, he served as a delegate for Hillary Clinton in New York. [edit] Personal life Dinkins is married to the former Joyce Burrows and they have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercession in New York City. Dinkins' radio program "Dialogue with Dinkins" can be heard Saturday mornings on WLIB radio in New York City.[6] Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi ("the Boule"), the oldest collegiate and first professional Greek-letter fraternities, respectively, established for African Americans. Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Dinkins

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