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The Crenshaw-LAX Rail Line and 2013 Mayor’s Race: The Black Community Will Decide the Next Mayor and Won’t Be Played Again

The bell has sounded for the 2013 Mayor’s Race and the horses are fast out of the gate. The first of what I’m sure will be many debates took place over the weekend, and one thing became perfectly clear - there is no clear frontrunner for who will be the next Mayor of Los Angeles and they pretty much all sound the same at this point.

Sounding the same and being the same are two different things. Sounding the same means the candidates at this point are willing to say just about anything to keep the interest high among identity groups throughout the city. Even people who never really have been in South L.A. before are claiming they know this community. It’s really an insult to our intelligence, but we will “play along” for a minute.

Eventually, they will separate themselves based on what they can really do and what they’re prepared to commit to do, and that will make the next Mayor stand out. The Black Community will be the tipping point that chooses the next Mayor. Only this time…some things are going to go a little differently. Why?

It may have something to do with the way things have gone this time around. The electorate got solidly behind James Hahn in 2001, then shifted its vote to Villaraigosa in 2005. Villaraigosa knows -- like we know -- had the Black Community stayed put, Hahn would have won again. Hahn let go a black chief who ran for public office, got the sympathy votem and became the worst politician ever, but the community was prepared to tolerate it when we thought we had an ally in the first Latino Mayor in 125 years.

We didn’t have the ally we thought we had and the Black Community has been losing ever since. How?

Well, Villaraigosa had promised jobs. There has been no jobs increase since Villaraigosa’s been Mayor. Black unemployment in Los Angeles is twice the state average. Villaraigosa promised better schools. The state of black children, even in the Mayor-controlled schools, would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. Blacks have been nearly invisible in his administration. Generally, he hires them one at a time -– and gives them little authority. Hahn hired more blacks than Villaraigosa and advocated for more development projects. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s time to admit it -- the Black Community picked wrong in 2005. It intends to pick right in 2013.

With Villaraigosa’s administration having been one big disappointment, the community now knows it must do better. It can’t vote for someone who talks the best talk -- it must vote for someone who walks that talk. That’s what 2013 will be about, after what the Black Community now calls, “the Villaraigosa lesson.” The Black Community is still the game changer. It is 13% of the city’s vote while only 8% of the population. It has the highest efficacy of any ethnic group in the city. It gave Villaraigosa every chance to repay its support - beyond a few appointments.

The Mayor still had a chance to be a hero -- when the community asked Villaraigosa, then President of MTA, for a stop at Leimert Park on the Crenshaw-LAX rail line and to take the train underground through the Crenshaw/Hyde Park section of town. The request fell on deaf ears in a very arrogant rebuke of Black Community interest. The community got a possible stop and no tunnel. He claimed there was no money for it, but made no offer to find money either. Not good enough.

Villaraigosa not only played the community, making them think he would support the community plan. He punked the community by blowing them off when he had the votes to change the outcome. Villaraigosa got something (eight years of Mayorship) for literally nothing (a few commission appointments) and the Black Community got nothing for a little something. No Mayor will ever punk the Black Community like this again. The next Mayor must deliver.

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This is from somebody who was one of about a dozen black supporters Villaraigosa had in 2001, and that helped turn a drip into a waterfall of support in 2005. I’ve watched the Mayor forget who his friends were. The Black Community’s memory won’t be as short as his. I promise you.

I attended an “invitation only - invite non-transferable” meeting in Exposition Park about a month ago. I’ve developed an aversion to meetings. Most are a waste of time. Particularly, black leader meetings. I said I would give it an hour and if I saw any presence of the bull-poop calling themselves “activists,” I was outta’ there. No time for pretense. They weren’t there -- thank God -- and some serious, really serious, no-holds-barred discussion took place among real-dealers in the room.

This meeting had about 50 key stakeholders that get it done in every industry and every generation. I haven’t been a part of such a meeting since the early 90s. The young lion who called the meeting made his appeal and the community bought in solid. A community that rarely agrees on anything came away agreeing on three things:

  • Crenshaw Boulevard will not have a rail line running up the middle of it - killing off what little commerce the community has left;
  • The community will vote solidly for the Mayoral candidate that delivers the Leimert Park stop and the underground tunnel - and that person will find the money for it - if they want to be Mayor;
  • The Black Community is prepared to vote against Measure J if it can’t get what it wants on Crenshaw.

They will separate themselves based on what they can really do and what they’re prepared to commit to do. Most feel that the community’s support of Measure R wasn’t adequately rewarded, that Measure R funds shortchanged the Southside and the Eastside in favor of projects on the Westside and there is no incentive for the community to tax itself if it will not receive benefits from Measure J transportation projects. If there was a fourth thing the community came away with, it was that it is tired of being taken for granted. It was tired of being punked.

That was the message communicated to the candidates at Brookins AME Church last Sunday. The Black Community picked the last two mayors, and it will pick the next one - the one that will do more than talk and smile in our faces. One that won’t try to play us again.

Anthony Samad

Anthony Samad
The Black Commentator

Published: Thursday, 27 September 2012