St. Louis Public Radio News
12:08 am
Wed July 25, 2007

Bloomberg to kick off Urban League gathering in St. Louis

St. Louis, MO – New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will help kick off the Urban League's national conference in St. Louis today (Wed.). He's expected to discuss education during a luncheon for conference executives. In prepared remarks, Bloomberg says performance-based merit pay for teachers should be implemented in the nation's public schools.

Six presidential hopefuls are also expected to speak later this week about what they'd do for urban America if elected.

Programming note: The president of the national Urban League, Marc Morial, is speaking with host Don Marsh on KWMU's St. Louis on the Air later this morning.

Early on, Democrats including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich accepted the civil rights organization's offer to participate. Morial announced Monday that two Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and California Rep. Duncan Hunter, also had accepted.

Bloomberg's appearance comes as he continues to deny any plans to run for president, even though he recently switched from Republican to unaffiliated, clearing the way for a possible independent bid.

Morial said invitations went to all candidates in November, and that those who haven't responded "are missing a sensational opportunity" to tap "one big focus group."

Noting the absence of Republican presidential hopefuls Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor; Arizona Sen. John McCain; and Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, Morial said it "demonstrates some lack of insight on how crucial the constituency this organization represents is going to be."

"We ain't begging nobody," the former New Orleans mayor said, adding that "those who come are serious about the issues we champion."

The Urban League has spent the last two years compiling 50 public policy recommendations on jobs, housing, entrepreneurship and children called the "Opportunity Compact: Blueprint for Economic Equality."

The Urban League, which describes itself as the nation's oldest and largest movement aimed at empowering blacks into the economic and social mainstream, will release its 50 recommendations throughout the year. The candidates have received a preview of 10 of them, and have been asked to frame their talks around them.

"We'd like them to use the opportunity to lay out a comprehensive urban agenda," Morial said.

Each candidate will be given time to speak extensively before being asked some questions. "We want more than sound bites and rehearsed answers to complex problems," said Morial, former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Rev. Jesse Jackson was scheduled to speak Thursday morning on the black vote in the 2008 presidential election. Conference organizers now say Jackson will arrive later in the day. Organizers say he will speak at an afternoon session on black males, along with Rev. Al Sharpton.