Promise Keepers Navigate Local Politics

While some might question Promise Keepers' stated intention of "taking back America's cities," few can criticize the volunteer labor the group has offered to the urban areas where they have held their rallies. Still, even the best intentions can get caught up in the tangled web of local politics.

The Washington City Paper, an alternative weekly newspaper in the nation's capital, is critical of the fact that though the Washington, D.C. school district couldn't organize the local means to repair the city's schools so that they could open on time last fall, they were able to help fund a visit of Promise Keepers volunteers to patch up the run-down buildings.

A political gossip columnist at the City Paper alleges that D.C. school maintenance chief Charles Williams-who they say has attended PK events in the past-spent nearly a half-million dollars of tax payers' money to transport Promise Keepers to work sites in D.C. and host them while they served the city by repairing schools during two separate visits in 1997. Williams' office contends that it cost the city about $60,000 to host the Promise Keepers volunteers, but that the Washington school district received nearly $600,000 worth of skilled labor in exchange.

In the midst of wrangling over figures, Harold Brinkley, PK's director of church relations, didn't allow the controversy to put a damper on the group's motives for coming to D.C. Promise Keepers' "whole effort is to serve the city and not get involved in the city's [political] problems," he said. "We saw a need and sought to fill it according to our Christian commitment."

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