Why can't we all just get along?
That's what Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's former man in the shadows, Paul Goldman, wants to know as he watches the mayor's ongoing war of words with city school officials about who's responsible for making city schools handicap-accessible.
"For a city that prides itself in being a leader in civil rights," Goldman says, "I think it's unfortunate that the federal courts can acknowledge that rights are being violated here, but no one's stepping forward to fix it."
He's referring to an appellate court decision two weeks ago that let the city off the hook for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act at city schools.
"I don't think the solutions are that hard," says Goldman, who claims authorship of Wilder's vaunted "City of the Future" plan, from which schools were recently excluded by mayoral decree.
"The difficulty here is everybody's right and nobody's wrong the mayor is legally correct, the City Council is legally correct," Goldman says. "But Dr. [Martin Luther] King was right: A right delayed is a right denied. It's a very, very important insight."
It's the second time since leaving City Hall as Wilder's senior adviser that Goldman has weighed in on schools matters. Both of his weigh-ins have come since failing in his November bid for a seat on council.
After Wilder's December announcement that he was excluding schools from City of the Future funding, Goldman criticized the plan, but not his former boss. As with his previous criticisms, Goldman isn't willing to take Wilder to task. Rather, he says he thinks consensus is right around the corner.
And he strongly hints that egos on all sides need to make way for discussion and solutions before the citizens catch wind of the foot-dragging.
"The public may very well have to step in," says Goldman, who orchestrated the petition drive to create an at-large elected mayor and Wilder's mayoral campaign. "People need to realize what's at stake here."
"It's about what Richmond wants to stand for," he says, calling this "sort of a test" of the city's civil rights mettle.
"I don't think it helps to have a federal court on the record saying, Yeah you're denying these kids rights," he says. "I read the court's decision as a wakeup call. It's going to have to be addressed. I don't think Richmond will stand for a separate but equal school system." S