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David Dinkins and New York City Politics

Race, Images, and the Media

Wilbur C. Rich

Publication Year: 2007

As the first African American elected mayor of New York City, David Dinkins underwent intense scrutiny—first from the black community, then from white liberal supporters, the media, and the city’s electorate. Wilbur C. Rich focuses on the critical role played by the New York City media in the perception of mayoral leadership. Using interviews and words of journalists, Rich examines media coverage as both the architect and challenger of Dinkins’ image. The making and unmaking of David Dinkins not only exposes much about the agency of African American politicians, but also reveals the fragility of electoral coalitions.

Published by: State University of New York Press

DAVID DINKINS AND NEW YORK CITY POLITICS

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ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. vii-viii

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PREFACE

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pp. ix-xii

Journalist Robert Turner once asserted, “Mayors are chronicled by novelists but ignored by political scientists.”1 I am a political scientist who had spent most of his career watching and writing about mayors. Yet I do agree that mayors are “character actors of politics.”2 They are certainly not the lead actors or stars of the ...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xiii-xiv

I would particularly like to thank Mayor David Dinkins and his former staff members. They were gracious in our interviews and in allowing me to construct my own analysis of them as individual and elected officials. ...

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1. INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-23

Increasingly, city politics revolves around mayor-centered coalitions. Within these coalitions, it is the mayor who commands the media attention, serves as the principal communication intermediary with a whole host of groups and individuals, and acts as a lighting rod for public dissatisfaction. As a high-profile spokesperson, New York City’s mayor’s responsibilities ...

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2. THE MAKING OF A NEW YORK BLACK POLITICIAN: DAVID DINKINS

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pp. 24-62

American cities have been electing mayors of African descent since the 1960s.1 The election of a black mayor is no longer greeted with the excitement or apprehension of the sixties and seventies. The eighties and nineties were times when certain cities anticipated electing the first mayor of African American descent. Most black mayors have proven themselves to ...

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3. DAVID DINKINS AND REGIME CHANGE

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pp. 63-81

Since the publication of Wallace Sayre and Herb Kaufman’s 1965 classic study Governing New York, the city had become a very different place. The ensuing thirty-five years had produced a generational change not only in political leadership but also in economic conditions. The city that David Dinkins had chosen to lead had acquired internecine multiracial divisions combination of unelecting Ed Koch, quelling racial tensions, and ...

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4. THE STAFFING OF DINKINS’ CITY HALL

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pp. 82-102

David Dinkins was trained as a city politician, not a municipal administrator. The staff chosen by his administration would become a part of the ecological image constructed by the media. Mayors need help making and explaining decisions, and a new mayor must find people who can read numbers (those associated with the budget and polls), understand ...

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5. RACIAL EVENTS, DIPLOMACY, AND DINKINS’ IMAGE

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pp. 103-130

Since the 1970s survey researchers have been tracking the impact of the election of a black mayor on trust in city government. Some scholars believe such elections would decrease white trust in city government, while others believe it is blacks who undergo an opinion change. The question is whether the trust in city government is related to a more generalized reservation ...

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6. WHO RUNS THE CITY? UNION BOSSES OR THE MAYOR?

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pp. 131-144

Who runs New York? Is it the mayor, businesspersons, interest groups, or political parties? Political scientists want to believe it is the mayor. Others see businesspersons as the less visible part of a governing elite. Few people would answer that the political parties run the city. New York still has political clubs, but there is no overall boss of the city. ...

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7. CRIME COVERAGE, MAYORAL IMAGES, AND SIGNALING

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pp. 145-164

Stories about the crime rate in New York are not always newsworthy. Crime is a part of city life. However, the number of violent crimes can act as the most important marker of a mayoral tenure. Crime is one of the least understood phenomena in urban life and media discourse. Nothing can focus public attention on City Hall more acutely as in when the ...

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8. THE TURMOIL OF SCHOOL POLITICS: Introduction

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pp. 165-183

No crisis in large cities is more frustrating than the plight of public schools. Inner-city schools in New York are beset with a plethora of problems ranging from inadequate facilities, incompetent classroom teachers, and poor reading and math scores, to violence within the schools. The public seems to be most concerned about the low achievement ...

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9. CONCLUSION

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pp. 184-206

Throughout this book, I have attempted to anatomize the complex theater of everyday politics in New York City. Like an opening of a new Broadway play, a newly elected mayor is always met with anxious anticipation. We sort through the dialogue and encounters to discern the plot and determine the protagonists and antagonists, but before we render our evaluation ...

NOTES

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pp. 207-232

INDEX

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pp. 233-239


E-ISBN-13: 9780791480793
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469491
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469492

Page Count: 239
Illustrations: 10 b/w photographs, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Dinkins, David N.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • Press and politics -- New York (State) -- New York.
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