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 (who 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 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.
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: 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 are.
became clear that the MTA Board was almost offended that
MTA Director 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
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 appointee’s 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 projects that didn’t
have full funding in place, and after Supervisor (and
MTA Director) 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, Mayor Villaraigosa stroked
the black community in his usual way before he turned
his dogs on the project. Villaraigosa appointee’s Mel
Wilson and Richard Katz totally unraveled the project.
Wilson, 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.
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.
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
in 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 of office. Villaraigosa is
the third Mayor since the late Tom Bradley left office,
to come to our community, make promises and not keep them.
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, that is funding the rebuilding
of mass transit infrastructure, insures that Los Angeles will be a destination city for global tourists.
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.
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.
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…
point here is, we haven’t gotten any more from him than
we got from the other man, besides a few department appointment,
a few commissioners and all the proclamations we can hang.
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? There’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.
he would have taken a chance and bet on black, like black
bet on him.
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist,
managing director of the
Urban Issues Forum
and author of
Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click
to contact Dr. Samad.