Last week The Washington Post reported that several local black businessmen received significant shares in multimillion-dollar downtown development projects -- often with little or no capital required -- in order for white developers to meet affirmative action goals. This week, staff writer Vernon C. Thompson and photographer Sharon C. Farmer asked members of the noontime crowd in front of Hecht's at Seventh and F streets NW, in the heart of the dowtown redeveopment area, what they thought of the equity arrangement .
Bill Burrision, 43, of Northeast Washington, a federal auditor: "Preferential treatment is necessary in order to have some type of equality -- or (fair) distribution of public funds. . . Look at labor unions, contracting trades -- years ago sons and grandsons entered the business because they had (white) connections. That was preferential treatment."
Michael Roth, 25, of Mount Pleasant, a waiter on Capitol Hill: "It isn't like open season for all blacks. It is for certain blacks with certain connections. I'm from Chicago originally, and it reminds me of the (Richard) Daley machine. It doesn't matter if they are black or white, just well-connected.
Vermell Gunter, of Southeast Washington, a secretary: "Why shouldn't black people be given preferential treatment? White people have been getting it for years."
Thomas Gunner, 33, of Southeast Washington, unemployed: "It is as it should be. We haven't even half caught up. We are nowhere near where the (whites) are in employment. . . in finances. . . we are nowhere near them."
Carol Izumi, of Dupont Circle, a law student: "I couldn't give you a fourword answer to that.It is a loaded question. It is a question of affirmative action and how you are going to structure programs that are geared to specific goals."
Katie Dillon, of Cleveland Park, mother of 10 children: "I don't think it should be given just because you're black or you're Irish or Polish. Only if you are contributing (financially). Then you should have a share."
Mark Charles, 17, of Mount Pleasant, a student at the University of the District of Columbia: "I think black people have come a long way. They deserve a just reward. Whites have treated them wrong for years."
Stephen Hall, 26, of Southwest Washington, a model: "I don't think there is anything wrong with giving money to blacks so they can help themselves with it. Blacks can use that money."