ABOVE: Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey L. Boney and Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg
Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg recently visited the city of Houston to deliver remarks at the Future of Black America Symposium, hosted by the Women Missionary Society, the Connectional Lay Organization of the AME Church and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) at the Hilton North Houston Hotel.
The gathering comes at a critical time for African Americans across the United States, especially as groups and individuals find ways to navigate a complex political and social environment.
Bloomberg spoke to an audience of mostly Black women, about various subjects, such as his proposed Greenwood Initiative, closing the racial wealth gap, ending economic inequality, understanding his White privilege, and of course, defeating Donald Trump in November.
“If I had been Black,” Bloomberg said. “I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities, and my life would have turned out very differently. Many Black Americans of my generation would have ended up with far more wealth if they had been White.”
The 77-year-old Bloomberg is a billionaire entrepreneur, who served as the 108th mayor of New York City. He entered the presidential race late last year, and has been making a major push and has become a serious contender in his quest to secure the Democratic nomination this year.
According to Bloomberg, his Greenwood Initiative plan involves laying out a path to help Black families raise their household incomes and triple their wealth by creating 1 million new Black homeowners and 100,000 new Black-owned businesses in the next decade.
Going further, Bloomberg’s plan includes a $70 billion investment in the country’s 100 most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Bloomberg states that he plans to commit those dollars towards funding and technical support, with a relentless focus on evidence-based programs in areas including health, education, infrastructure and justice.
He turned his attention towards beating President Trump in November.
“We’ve got to beat Trump,” said Bloomberg. “The future of our country depends on it.”
After his speech, he received a standing ovation from the majority of people in attendance, who sought to capture a photo with the potential Democratic nominee.
Later, in an interview with the Houston Forward Times (see video), Bloomberg answered tough questions about his position reversals on “stop-and-frisk” and his views on universal health care for all individuals.
When asked about what plans he had in place to gain the trust and support of African Americans who still connect him with the controversial “stop-and-frisk” position he initially supported for many years, Bloomberg responded:
“I said it was wrong and I apologized. The mark of a good leader or with anyone who takes risks, you gotta be able to, if it doesn’t work, say I’m sorry and let’s go on to the next thing.”
When asked why he chose to defend the controversial practice, Bloomberg stated:
“Well, there’s no question that we did it. Every major city, that’s the way every police department works. No question that we did it for a long time. And there’s no question that we did it for too long. And in my third term it kind of got out of hand and it wasn’t my intention. I’m really sorry. I stopped it and cut out 95% of it before I left office. It was wrong and I apologized. Having said that, we started off with 650 murders a year when I got into office. Virtually all, both the victims and the perpetrators, were young men of color. When I left, it was down to 320 or some number like that. I cut the incarceration rate for young men by 50%. I cut the recidivism rate for young men by like 40%. So, my intent when I got into office, I saw these 650 murders and I thought to myself that the most basic right is the right to live, and I would do everything that I could to stop those murders. It’s history, you can’t walk away from it.”
When asked about his views on Universal Healthcare for everyone, Bloomberg responded:
“Medicare for all doesn’t work…If you provide care for 330 million people, it would bankrupt the system…There are 150 million Americans who have insurance from their employer. They want to keep that. Their health plans pay hospitals and doctors dramatically more than Medicare pays. Medicare pays less, which is why doctors don’t want Medicare patients, because they don’t get paid. If you get rid of the private healthcare plans and put everyone at the Medicaid rate, the hospitals would all go out of business, because it’s not enough money to pay them, buy all of the equipment that they have to have in this day and age, and the doctors wouldn’t be able to pay off their loans…Medicare works pretty well. You have about 30 million people who have no care whatsoever. That’s where the real problem is, and we have to get a way where we can get them medical care, so it’s up to society. We have to pay.”
Bloomberg is making a major play for Texas. Early voting begins February 18 and Election Day is on March 3, where the state of Texas has 228 delegates that would make a huge difference for any candidate seeking to become the next Democratic nominee for president.
He is slated to come back to Houston for a major announcement this week, where it is expected he will be picking up a major endorsement.
As far as the Future of Black America Symposium is concerned, other Symposium speakers included Mike Espy, a 2018 candidate for the U.S. Senate and the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes; New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver; Karen Carter Richards, Chair, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders; South Carolina State Representative Jerry Govan, surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer; Carroll G. Robinson, president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats; Deborah Taylor King of the Women’s Missionary Society – AME; Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis; Dr. Michael Adams from Texas Southern University; Carl Davis, who did a great job serving as Chair of the event; and many more.
Participants discussed how to advance issue areas such as business development and government procurement; addressed STEM training and workforce development in addition to the impact on African Americans; discussed what public policy tools can be used to foster an environment that supports the growth and expansion of African American businesses owners and entrepreneurs; focused on the state of voting rights and offered solutions to improve access, guard against voter suppression and to protect votes once they are cast; and much more.
For more information on the Future of Black America Symposium, please visit www.futureofblackamericasymposium.com.