News CoverageEdit

Hill House Hosts 2001 Candidate

GOP mayoral candidate discusses campaign platform Edit

Carmine meets black leaders

Saturday, August 04, 2001

By Jim McKinnon, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

For a few tense moments last night, Pittsburgh mayoral candidate James Carmine was put in the hot seat as he presented himself as an alternative to what he described as a machine-driven executive office in the city.

also an article from 2001.

Republican mayoral candidate James Carmine speaks yesterday at a meeting with African-American leaders, activists and other concerned citizens at the Hill House on Centre Avenue. (Bill Wade, Post-Gazette)

A group of African-American leaders, activists and residents met last night with Carmine, the Republican candidate for mayor, at the Hill House on Centre Avenue.

Some wanted to know, among other things, about Carmine's platform and what makes the 46-year-old Carlow College professor from Regent Square different from Mayor Tom Murphy and others in power in Pittsburgh.

"It's time for us to quit picking some benevolent Caucasian person to fight our battles," said Al Muhammad, one of about two dozen people at the presentation.

"They're not going to resolve our problems," Muhammad continued. "We need to develop our own stratagem."

The event was moderated by Pittsburgh school board member Mark Brentley, who wanted to know whether the GOP is serious about including black candidates in the party's future plans.

Brentley and Carmine already have teamed to carry out the city's first Take Your Father to Work Day, and Brentley seemed open to the possibility of working with Carmine's party in the upcoming general election.

"If the Republican Party is ready, willing and able to accept African-American candidates, it's something for us to consider," Brentley said by way of introducing Carmine.

First, however, Carmine must overcome what appears to be an impassable obstacle -- the 5-to-1 registration edge Democrats have held in Pittsburgh for decades.

"You have to realize that [Pittsburgh's government] is about outsiders and insiders. I'm an outsider," Carmine said.

He charged that what commonly is referred to as the Democratic Party is, in fact, an apolitical machine designed to keep incumbents in power.

"I don't want to offend anyone in this room, but you're outsiders, too," he said, scouring his audience, where the friendliest face may have been that of his young son.

"You have a racist city. This is not a city that plays fair," Carmine added.

The comment begged the obvious question: How would a successful Mayor Jim Carmine be any different than the current administration?

Ophelia "Cookie" Coleman, a Pittsburgh police detective who wears other hats as a leader in black organizations, wanted to know what, if anything, Carmine would do as mayor to insure that Pittsburgh enforces existing legislation to include minority businesses in the current construction boom.

When Carmine pointed to the ineffectiveness of the Minority Business Enterprise office, Coleman interrupted.

"Leadership sets the tone," said Coleman, who serves as chairman of the public safety committee of the Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and as president of the Guardians, the black police organization in the city.

"If you're going to blame the [Minority Business Enterprise], it's just more politics," Coleman continued. "You're no different."

Carmine promised that he would set the appropriate tone by cracking down on "pass-through" subcontracts whereby white contractors hire minority businessmen as subcontractors to fulfill the city's mandate to include minorities.

Carmine also promised that a priority would be to appoint an African-American person "at the highest possible levels" to serve in his administration as, say, deputy mayor or other positions.

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