LA’s Reluctance to “Bet on Black”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Villaraigosa appointee’s Mel Wilson and Richard Katz totally unraveled the project. Wilson went first by attacking the fiscal responsibility of the project, which killed the Park Mesa tunnel. Wilson, a Negro who lives in the Valley, argued 15-20 minutes against the proposal under the guise that he was newly reappointed and the proposal didn’t make sense to him. But he called experts who were ready at the back of the room.

Then Katz came in with a three-part convoluted substitute motion, readily typed and distributed to the board, on how the Leimert Park Village could be build if it could be done within the $1.715 billion already allocated. This was based on the Mayor’s rationalization that the bids on the project were coming in at 30% under projected cost. How convenient was it for Katz to have a proposal that already fit the Mayor’s position on the project. This whole scene was contrived and orchestrated.

The final MTA board position was that the Leimert Park Village (LPV) stop be approved with no additional funding, on the premise that the additional $131 million hadn’t been identified and the low bids ought to leave room for the LPV stop to happen.

What kind of fools do they think we are? We know infrastructure project bids come in low to get the project, but the contractors “cost change” the projects to death. Rarely is there money left on the table. So we know the game.

I’m not going to spend a lot of space saying anything more about Antonio Villaraigosa than I’ve always said in the past. I believe he’s disingenuous and plays our community regularly…and we will see him again one day as his ambition doesn’t end here at the Mayor’s office.

Instead, I’ll focus on how common it has become to reward our community’s support with appointments, commissions and proclamations instead of infrastructure and industry that lasts beyond an elected official’s term in office. Villaraigosa is the third mayor since the late Tom Bradley left office, to come to our community, make promises and not keep them.

Supervisor Gloria Molina

Like Riordan and Hahn before him, he serves our community by appealing to individual self-interests in the appointment of individuals, instead of investing in the community itself. You don’t have to do nothing for our community if you promote the interest of a few individuals. South Los Angeles was ignored and underdeveloped during the Bradley years. Our city has been rebuilt since the 1992 riots and the Measure R bond, which is funding the rebuilding of mass transit infrastructure that insures LA will be a destination city for global tourists.

If not for the demand of the community and Ridley-Thomas’ advocacy, city leadership was prepared to leave South Los Angeles out of the infrastructure development for nearly another two decades (as it has left South Los Angeles out of commercial development). At some point, the development of South (and East) Los Angeles will have to be seen, not in the equity balance of the rest of the city, but in the context of making up for the absence of development as a community historically passed over.

We got tired of the white “city fathers” passing over South L.A. so we bet on brown to see “what brown could do for us.” What we’ve found out is that brown ain’t willing to bet on black.

Given Ridley-Thomas’ performance on King Hospital and the Expo Line, and his role in making Measure R happen, that benefited all communities, he should’ve been given an opportunity to find the $500 million for Leimert Park and Park Mesa (or at least the Leimert Park Village component) for his own community, and Villaraigosa should have been leading the way in that conversation to pull his four votes.

Park Mesa lost by the margin that Villaraigosa controlled. He fronted us off again. Then he sent a press release out claiming he supported the project. Yeah, in theory, not in funding. What good does that do the project? Even when we win, we lose with this guy. He’s never with us when it counts most. But he’s gonna’ want us to bet on him again one day…

The point here is, we haven’t gotten any more from him than we got from the other man, besides a few department appointments, a few commissioners, and all the proclamations we can hang on our walls. And we should be happy when he shows up at our events. Really, now? Is that what we really thought we were getting when we dumped Hahn for Villaraigosa?

Anthony SamadThere’s a saying, “What I do for myself, dies with me. What I do for others, lives indefinitely.” His puppet appointments go out with him. The Crenshaw/LAX line will last 100 years and every time it goes down Crenshaw, we will remember what he did. Villaraigosa killed what legacy he had in our community. Not that he really cared.

Otherwise, he would have taken a chance and bet on black, like black bet on him.

Anthony Samad
The Black Commentator

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 www.blackcommentator.com. For more information about Dr. Samad, go to www.AnthonySamad.com.