Anthony Asadullah Samad:
Between the Lines

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Anthony Asadullah Samad is an Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at East Los Angeles College, and is President of Samad and Associates, an urban affairs strategic planning firm that specializes in the assessment and management of public policy, economic development, urban, social and race issues. His firm maintains a national portfolio of public agencies, not for profit social service groups, civil and employee rights groups looking to manage growth, cooperation and conflict in diversely populated communities. Samad's 15-year consulting efforts have generated over $300 million in economic development opportunities in urban and rural communities nationwide.

For the past 13 years, Samad has published an award winning weekly editorial commentary that contributes to over 100 newspapers and cyber websites nationwide.His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click here to contact Dr. Samad

 


Mayor Villaraigosa,
Its Time to Ask the Question:

Are You Friend or Foe to the Black Community

It’s time for us to find out what’s going on with the black community’s relationship with “Mayor V.” As a supporter (in 2001 and 2005), I don’t like the things I’m hearing. And it’s not from dissenters, either. It’s from other supporters who are now concerned that “the Mayor is trippin'. Hard.” One supporter who cooled significantly on the Mayor, asserted that the Mayor only deals in “politics of subjugation” and they’re not with that. It’s easy to get caught up in what the Mayor is, or isn’t, given his personal politics lately, but I’m not caught up in that. I’m more concerned about his day job and how our community benefits — and therein lies the problem. I don’t see any economic development going on, any real “new” housing. The Expo Rail has its controversies. Then there’s the shell game of people appointments and hires. I have noticed how the Mayor likes to tout the diversity of his administration with the disproportionality of black appointments. We should have a disproportionate amount of appointments. We disproportionately supported him for Mayor — and the African American community was the difference. Why should our community not share in the spoils of victory? The concern, however, is that there has been a delusion of power by African Americans in City Hall.

The politics of political appointments, in any city, is one of trying to balance constituencies, interests (usually rewarding political contributors) and matching talents with tasks that will bring expertise to local government. In Los Angeles, it’s about the power share, where the Mayor doesn’t just have to keep up with the white dots, black dots, brown dots and yellow dots on his multi-ethnic check board. He also has to honor the promise to insure the politics of inclusion are significant, not just representative. Villaraigosa likes to tout how African American commissioners are over-represented in his administration. Commissioners are volunteer slots (for the most part). A lot of work for a title and a little recognition. Department heads cannot be equated with commissioners. Departments heads yield great power in hiring, they run multi-million dollar budgets and they play important roles in ensuring that the city maintain diversity in the work force, in a day when colorblindness is returning public service jobs to “white only” in management positions. The firing of Gloria Jeff at the Department of Transportation is a troubling move, particularly since a previously fired “Riordan bulldog,” was let go for doing the exact same thing to another department head as she did to Jeff. It appears that the City Hall culture has become more abusive toward African Americans in the Villaraigosa administration. You know black people don’t take kindly to being fronted off — especially by somebody they helped get into office.  And it seems like everything time the Mayor appoints one department head (thanks for Doug Barry), we lose two. African Americans department heads are down more than 50% since Villaraigosa has been in office. Yeah, commissioner appointments are up, but please — don’t insult our intelligence by equating apples with grapes. They’re not the same. The Mayor does some pretty convenient math when it comes to us on the appointment tip, but it doesn’t add up in the power sharing management column. It’s making the Mayor a pretty lonely guy in South L.A.

The mayor walked “hand in hand” with black elected officials and church leaders, swearing that he’d never make the mistake former Mayor Jim Hahn made, in betraying the political trust of the black community. Well, I don’t see that anymore. The Mayor has no black deputy Mayor and the black ranks are thin on his staff. Mayor Villaraigosa appeared at the Urban Issues Forum a few months back, and received a respectful applause — one that even surprised him. He stated that he didn’t expect that type of reception. Afterward, he told someone that he was appalled I gave him a grade of C on the report card grading his first two years, and “that the people love him.” That statement let me know he has it twisted. He got the applause because, before he got there, I implored the audience not to boo, and to be respectful. So, it wasn’t “about him” like he thinks it is. I don’t think the Mayor understands his growing level of alienation. Well, consider this a hint from a supporter who has asked for nothing, and wants nothing for himself — but wants much for his community. The community ain’t feelin’ you, man. Time to reach back out.

We have a saying in the black community that “Every black ain’t brotha, and every smile ain’t friendly." Every time I see you, you’re smiling but I don’t know exactly how to take that anymore. So tell me, are you still an ally to the constituency to which you owe your election? If so, quit the shell games with political slots. You’re making the very mistakes you swore you’d never make — and you about to get “Hahned.”

Note: James Hahn was the last Mayor of Los Angeles. He betrayed the black community by not rehiring the black chief of police, Bernard Parks. The black community withdrew it's support from Hahn in the last Mayoral election, en mass, for Villaraigosa - not so much in support of Villaraigosa, but as a protest vote against Hahn. Thus, now in L.A. when a political candidate crosses the black community, they run the risk of getting "Hahned."

posted October 16, 2007

 

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