One recent Sunday morning, a Nigerian television official visiting Mayor Andrew Young confessed a dilemma: he needed high-technology communications equipment to broadcast President Shehu Shagari's speech to the jungle outback. Contractors were behind schedule, a deadline was looming. Could Young help?
Young dialed Sid Topol, president of Scientific Atlanta, a manufacturer of communications gear, including satellite dishes, with sales last year of $337 million. When there was no answer, he dispatched an aide to track down Topol on the tennis court. A meeting was arranged.
Two weeks later, two Nigerian C130s touched down at the Lockheed terminal at Dobbins Air Force Base in nearby Marietta, and $1 million worth of Topol's hardware was loaded and flown to Nigeria. Shagari's speech went off without a hitch.
The deal also paid handsome political dividends here for a neophyte mayor. Young had delivered on his most dramatic campaign promise: to use his connections as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to win jobs and contracts for Atlanta at a time when city governments are tightening their belts and federal aid is declining.
"Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre has saved his city by hunting international business," Young said. "The survival of San Antonio depends on how well Mayor Henry Cisneros builds bridges to Mexico. The federal government has failed us, so mayors have to deal with corporations and foreign countries to establish new models for trade and development to keep their cities alive."
Young's popularity in his first year as mayor was tested severely as he backed a 1 percent sales tax increase. But, even as he did that, his charting of a foreign-trade policy from City Hall has resulted in African business for at least three local firms.
"We won the Nigerian job because Andy sent those people to see us and we performed," Topol said. "We really appreciated it."
No one argues that Young's foreign policy can deliver the Southeast's business mecca from recession, but such moves have been instrumental in winning over skeptical white business leaders who blanched at the prospect of another confrontational mayor such as Young's predecessor, Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor.
"On the whole, the business community is quite impressed with the job Andy Young is doing," said Thomas R. Williams, president of First National Bank of Atlanta. "He's provided excellent leadership to move the city forward."
"Even the most rabid conservatives concede he's doing a good job," said Scott Seydel, a local entrepreneur who sold $38 million worth of chemicals abroad last year and projects hiring 45 new employes from future contracts gleaned through Young contacts. "The mayor's influence has helped us in Nigeria, Kenya and Jamaica."
Yet, Young remains a profile in contradiction for many. White leaders shake their heads over the former civil rights leader's backing of Jesse Jackson's boycott of Anheuser-Busch beer. But they welcome him as the overnight darling of the downtown establishment.
Young regularly courts business leaders at breakfasts and lunches, preaching a litany of economic development, favoring parimutuel betting to raise revenues by taxing "sin," fostering an atmosphere to encourage investment and jobs. He brags to developers that building permits are no hassle anymore.
Later, he defends violent revolution in Latin America, hosting guerrilla leaders at a Caribbean conference here that makes the Chamber of Commerce wince. He sides with landlords on property tax rollbacks, then threatens to organize rent strikes if they are guilty of rent gouging.
At 50, Young still warms to controversy but prefers to mediate as he did in civil rights days.
"I try to bring all people together but, when I can't get them to agree, I formulate my own consensus and sell it to the majority," he said.
As mayor, he plays hardball, and has yet to lose a fight. Although he has difficulty holding a grudge, some businessmen complain that his staff can be vindictive in settling old scores.
Young bullied the City Council into approving a controversial access road through an old section of Victorian homes to pave the way for the $110 million Carter Library project.
Enlisting black ministers, radicals and business executives, he beat back angry neighborhood activists who once praised him as a congressman for keeping federal highways out of their backyards. The library meant jobs, prestige and tourist dollars, Young argued.
He stunned constituents by fighting for the 1 percent local sales tax increase to 5 percent, which hit the poor hard. In a Nov. 30 referendum, it passed with 53 percent of the vote, promising millions of dollars in property-tax rollbacks for homeowners and corporations and $39 million for city coffers.
"Andy Young is the only elected official who could have gotten it passed," said council member and civil rights veteran John Lewis, Carter's former deputy director of Action. "It was a referendum on Andy's popularity. People trust him. They feel he won't let them down. Maynard Jackson wasn't able to get the sales tax passed. But Andy gets support in both black and white camps because of his stature in both communities."
Young converted skeptical black ministers, promising to use revenues for inner-city recreation facilities, police precincts and the beleaguered Grady Hospital. Even public housing residents backed the tax after Young warned that Grady might have to curtail free prescriptions. Corporate chieftains were delighted.
"A sales tax administered by the state or federal government might be regressive," Young said, "but not one administered by the City Council and me. Not only did we head off a property-tax revolt, but we'll deliver more services to the poor. Only liberal ideologues can call that regressive."
"It was regressive," said Charles King, president of the Urban Crisis Center, which sponsors race relations seminars. "He's operating under Reagan's 'trickle down' theory, which doesn't work for black people. But Andy is faced with a dilemma. He must balance."
Indeed, a few black leaders worry that Young has tipped the balance away from the black rank and file, his traditional devotees, to make peace with white businessmen.
"A voice that once cried out in the wilderness has become a voice that is palatable to whites," King said. "He has curtailed white fears and middle- and upper-class blacks are profiting, but we have sacrificed the poor. That's a hell of a price to pay for a relationship with the white community."
Young has appointed real estate developers to the zoning review board, stirring fears of anything-goes growth. "His new gospel is economic development," Lewis said. "But people don't want to make Atlanta another Houston."
Young's defenders are legion.
"Andy understands that a vital and growing economy is the best protection for poor and black people in a Reagan America," said Michael Lomax, black chairman of the Fulton County Commission. "Progressive black officials need to learn from Andy Young if they don't want to preside over Harlems, Detroits or Newarks. He's prepared to broker with the establishment."
At one meeting, Lomax watched Young tell white business leaders, "I'll support the sales tax, but I expect you to support things that are important to me. Let's start talking about black employment and jobs."
A proposed $100 million downtown retail-entertainment development project would not only revitalize Underground Atlanta but also provide hundreds of jobs if it gets off the ground. A new Marriott hotel is expected to hire 1,800 employes when it opens in 1985. Georgia-Pacific just opened its new corporate headquarters on Peachtree Street.
Downtown, police on mopeds and on foot are more visible, diminishing the aura of crime, if not the statistics. Young won praise for promoting George Napper, a brainy black Ph.D. in criminal justice, from police chief to commissioner of public safety to replace Lee P. Brown, now Houston's top cop, and naming Morris Redding, a street-smart white, beat-patrolman, as chief of police.
Jackson's pompous style alienated white leaders as much as his pioneering for black-white ventures in city contracts. Young is under pressure by blacks to further divide the pie. White businessmen are holding their breath.
Said Young: "America would never have gone to war with Japan without black soldiers. Now we're doing major economic battle with Japan and Europe and leaving black business potential out of it. That's like the University of Georgia trying to play football without Herschel Walker.
"You can't integrate the economy without conflict, but the economy won't survive without it."
Young fired the city's longtime white finance director, Charlie Davis, but soothed the financial community by replacing him with Pat Glisson, a whiz-kid finance manager from DeKalb County who is white. The city boasts an AA bond rating, having just floated $8 million worth of long-term paper that sparked intense bidding from Wall Street. Its $900 million budget is balanced, Glisson said.
Almost daily, Third World dignitaries stop off en route to Washington to pay their respects to the outspoken former diplomat.
"You can't get comfortable in Atlanta and forget there are people who are hungry, tortured and victims of repression all over the world," Young said.
Since his election, Young has traveled to Africa three times, paying his way as a private consultant.
In Nigeria this year, he worked on a $4 million management training project he helped win for Alexander Proudfoot Co., a Chicago-based consulting firm that hired Young for an undisclosed sum to represent it in Africa. He also made a pitch to the government on behalf of direct flights to Atlanta and touted diesel engines for General Electric, another client.
Last August, he flew to Algeria after a diplomat's urgent transatlantic call warned him that an Atlanta electronics manufacturing firm's bid to install a national telecommunications system there was in trouble without Young's help. Algeria, he later learned, wanted him to negotiate a trans-Sahara pipeline with Nigeria under which the two African countries could sell oil to Europe in competition with the Soviet Union's trans-Siberia pipeline.
"I did bring it up," Young said, but like the pipeline, the Atlanta firm's deal remains in limbo.
No law limits the mayor's outside income or sets standards for conflict of interest. Young, whose annual mayor's salary is $50,000, said he does not see any conflict. He travels at his own expense, he said, scouting Atlanta business for free.
"We use our personal network of friends to help people solve problems," he said.
This year, he plans more travels as Atlanta's ambassador. "If you find any potholes, call me," he told business leaders recently. "The city can almost run by itself."
Private inquiries are referred to an associate, Stony Cooks, who runs Washington-based Young Associates, Young's private consulting firm, and Young Ideas Inc., a nonprofit vehicle for seminars. His brother, Walter, an Atlanta dentist, owns an export firm that does business in Africa. Young's daughter, Andrea, a lawyer, works with Cooks.
"We act as brokers for free," Young said. "It doesn't cost Atlanta a cent. Now, if a company wants someone to travel and work for them, they can go to Andrea or Stony and work out a separate consulting contract."
Young lampoons President Reagan's sensitivity toward blacks ("at least Nixon knew Sammy Davis"), pokes the State Department for "geopolitical idiocy" on Latin America and entertains the idea of running for the U.S. Senate when Republican Mack Mattingly's term expires.
He said he might try becoming Georgia's first black governor. Or he might run for mayor again. Why not Andy Young for vice president?
Any Democratic presidential candidate would be foolish to risk having Young as a running mate, he said. "What state could I carry? I'd be much more useful to a Republican like Jesse Helms, or any candidate so racist or reactionary he'd need someone black to compensate," Young said.
Asked to grade himself after a year in office, he said, "Atlanta was a great city before I got here, only no one understood it. Attitudes have changed. You don't hear people talking about what's wrong as much. Whether I did it or the baseball pennant-winning Braves did it, I don't know."