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Gotham City: Is Zane Phoenix Running Again?

Gothem City: Telling Tales of Our Capital Region's Politics

Zane Phoenix is positioning himself like an elected official who wants to run again for office. Apparently, this is an incredible but true statement.

Phoenix led the charge to take away from Mayor Stephen Reed the oversight powers in the awarding of city contracts over $100,000. First, City Council voted 6 – 0 to remove from Reed and his administration the power to monitor city goals for minority participation in construction projects. Hizzoner vetoed their action. Last week, council restored to itself the power to oversee minority participation in city projects. By doing so, council has needlessly added another layer of bureaucracy and review, replete with all the opportunities for political maneuvers and favor granting.

Here’s the foggiest part of his smoke and mirrors. There are no reports that goals for minority participation under Reed’s administration have not been met. Although we do not want to confuse Phoenix or other elected officials with facts, the numbers indicate otherwise. "Exemplary" is what one observer commented on the city’s ability to attract and involve minority firms. Council had these numbers during the debate and apparently were either unmoved by them or knowingly decided to disregard them and give themselves some political juice in anticipation of the next election. The bottom line is that Phoenix, with assistance from his colleagues on council, is orchestrating a problem where none exists in order to build — or rebuild — a constituency from which he can seek re-election.

The buzz around the city is that Phoenix, an African American who soiled himself when he reported that a young black man assaulted his girlfriend — a story later found out to be untrue — has no business running for another term. Obviously, Phoenix must disagree and views having control over city contracts to minority firms as a way to keep his seat warm.

Some observers are irate that he would even think of running again. Others shrug their shoulders. One person said, "This is politics. What’s reality got to do with it?" Recently Phoenix said, "…when you are the mayor of a city and go along with the economic structure the way it is, I think that is inadequate and illusory when you are dealing with race." Oh, really now. If the statistics indicate that Reed and Company is doing an "exemplary" job at minority participation, exactly where is the illusion? Does Phoenix have any data to back up that statement?

I also wonder if, at the time, Phoenix’s description of a young black man as the culprit of his actions was "illusory." I’m sorry, but I’m plain thinker. In what ways is Phoenix a good example of "dealing with race" after a stunt like that? The real "illusion" here is the one cynically perpetrated by Phoenix for the purpose of preserving his power.

When they asked Willy Sutton why he robbed banks, he replied, "’Cause that’s where they keep the money." If we asked Harrisburg City Councilman Zane Phoenix why he’s making a problem where none exists, would he be honest enough to reply, "’Cause that’s where they keep the votes"?

This feature originally appeared in MODE Magazine, September 14, 2000.
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Last modified on Sunday, August 30, 2015 • 6:59 pm

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