LA’s Reluctance to “Bet on Black”

MTA and The Mayor On The Leimert Park Stop Vote: LA’s Reluctance To “Bet on Black” – Even When We Win, We Lose

los angeles metrorailThe Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority did its usual “rope-a-dope” with the black community last week on the most important infrastructure investment of the next 100 years. Several things came into crystal clear reality;

  • some people don’t see our community as part of the future of this city
  • those we think are our friends or allies-are clearly not
  • the political sophistication of our community continues to be significantly underestimated
  • if some had their way, our community would continue to be significantly undeveloped and underserved

Very rarely is the Los Angeles black community in complete agreement. Take a picture of this moment…it will last longer. The church community (all denominations), the civil rights community (which hasn’t been in total agreement since the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed), community non-profits, business associations, activists groups (and individuals), elected officials and the community itself, all showed up to support the Ridley-Thomas motion to build a light rail stop at Leimert Park Village and an underground tunnel at the Park Mesa segment of the Crenshaw Rail line. The Lion and the Lamb laid down on this one as even Bernie Parks, Maxine Waters, and Jan Perry (who don’t support nuthin’ County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas does) weighed in for support of this one.

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Community interest finally triumphed over grudges. We just knew we were in for a good day, until we showed up (all 600 of us). Then it hit us: this city will always be reluctant to make a significant infrastructure investment in the black community. “Betting on black” is not this city’s strong suit. Trickin’ the community on votes that build for the future is.

It became clear that the MTA Board was almost offended that MTA Director Mark Ridley-Thomas would take a project not on the development schedule until 2029, get it moved up almost a decade and a half to 2016 (or 2018), take a $346,000 bus line and get it upgraded to a $1.715 billion dollar light rail line, and then come back in and ask for an additional $500 million dollars to include the cultural epicenter of the black community and avoid the fragmentation of business interests in his community in his advocation of an underground tunnel. Offense turned to hostility quite quickly as a hidden agenda played out.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had played coy all week, refusing to disclose where he was on the vote, claiming he was “listening” to all sides. As it turns out, the Mayor really wasn’t listening at all as his appointees to the board played out his agenda for him.

After Supervisor (and MTA Director) Zev Yaroslavsky implored “consistency” as he attacked the project (and Ridley-Thomas) for trying to force parochial interests on the board, inconsistent with a previous agreement not to vote for projects that didn’t have full funding in place, and after Supervisor (and MTA Director) Gloria Molina assailed Yaroslavsky’s hypocrisy and the Board’s disingenuousness around its disproportionate distribution of resources that have historically shortchanged the Eastside and the Southside, Villaraigosa stroked the black community in his usual way before he turned his dogs on the project.

Published by the LA Progressive on June 3, 2011
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About Anthony Asadullah Samad

Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is an author, scholar and the co-founder, Managing Director and host of the Urban Issues Forum. Dr. Samad's most recent book is entitled "Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom". His national column can be read in newspapers and cyber-sites nationwide. His weekly writings can be read at For more information about Dr. Samad, go to