Mecham meets with black business leaders

August 10, 1987

By LORI K. WEINRAUB
United Press International

PHOENIX — Black business leaders, voicing their concerns about the lack of opportunities for them in a meeting Monday with Gov. Evan Mecham, said “time will tell” if the governor is serious about helping them.

“We’re going to hold him accountable to his word,” said Denzil Kenneth Solomon of Hemodynamics Inc., “All these people are taking this with a grain of salt. Time will tell.”

The advisory meeting was one in a series that Mecham is holding with various groups, including Hispanics, religious leaders, elder statesmen, business heads and veterans. Mecham says the meetings are not designed to counter the recall movement but something he had been planning to do once the Legislature adjourned.

The recall movement was not discussed at the meeting.

The black leaders plan to meet again in 60 days and in the meantime, a task force of five or six members will try to come up with solutions to some of the problems, said Edith Richardson, a special assistant to the governor.

Solomon and Michael Rideau of Burl’s Generator Leasing Inc., said black businesses are not receiving their fair share of state contracts and often are excluded from the bidding process. They also say blacks have difficulty Obtaining financing and grants for education.

“Blacks don’t really receive the filet mignon, as it were, of contracts with the state, and other funds given to other organizations,” Solomon said.

Black leaders also discussed the lack of a state holiday to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr., and Solomon said they will try to come up with another alternative.

“Many of us would like to see the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” he said. “There may be another alternative. We’re going to try to give some input to the governor.”

Mecham, a Republican, rescinded the executive order issued by his predecessor, Democrat Bruce Babbitt, that created a state holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader. Mecham said the order was illegal.

The Legislature this year failed to pass a King holiday bill. After the session ended, Mecham declared the third Sunday in January a civil rights day.

When asked if he was concerned about being used by the governor, Solomon said “time will tell.” Rideau said he had that concern.

Solomon also said he believes discrimination exists in Arizona despite Mecham’s contention that there is no bias. “He may not know,” Solomon said. “We’re here to say this exists.”

Meantime, questions were raised about whether the meetings should be open to the media.

Mike Patten, an attorney with the First Amendment Coalition, said he believes the governor’s advisory meetings should be open under the state’s Open Meeting Law.

Ron Bellus, the governor’s press secretary, said he was told by the Attorney General’s Office that the meetings can be closed.

“No official action is taken,” he said. “It’s just an exchange of information back and forth.”

Furthermore, Bellus said, the committees were not set up by the Legislature and do not spend state money. Attorney General Bob Corbin said he does not know if the Open Meeting Law is being violated.

“It depends on the facts,” he said. “Without all the facts it’s impossible to say.” Corbin said if a group is appointed by the governor to study a problem and report back to him, he believes the group should meet openly.

The governor also plans to meet this week with Hispanics. leaders of special interest groups, political organizations and veterans.