wendy greul

Wendy Greul

*The 2013 Mayoral Election takes a significant step next Tuesday as the community gets a chance to narrow the field for an office primary which has no incumbent.

The office of Mayor is being vacated after tolerating eight years of a Mayor who took the black vote for granted, exploited the community and forgot who his friends were.

Los Angeles changed significantly in the past eight years. Koreatown. Hollywood. The Westside. Downtown. Even Westchester, grew exponentially under Antonio Villaraigosa. Not South L.A. Truth be told, not East L.A. They know it. We know it. And he knows we know it. Both communities have been left disappointed.

Hell, I’m disappointed. I believed in Antonio Villaraigosa and nobody worked harder to get him elected (both times) when backed him in 2001 when 95% of our community backed Jimmy Hahn, who I knew wasn’t going to do anything. He wasn’t his Daddy. When Villaraigosa lost, Jimmy Hahn turned his attention to L.A. Police Chief, Bernie Parks, part II of the black chief experiment, and got even for everything Parks ever did to him. Then the black community lost its mind, ran Parks for City Council just so he could exact revenge on Jimmy Hahn. Parks, not in office two years, ran for Mayor in 2005—not to win, but to cause Hahn to lose, and the black community been losing every since. Why rehash that bit of institutional history trivia? Because it’s not trivial. It’s significant to note how we got to this point in the community’s arrested development. Villaraigosa lost the black vote in 2001. Hahn lost it in 2005. His loss was Villaraigosa gain in 2005. The rest of the city voted just as it did in 2001. The only shift in the citywide vote. That was in South L.A. The black community put Antonio Villaraigosa in office.

Period.

What did the black community get out of a Villaraigosa administration? The same thing we got from Hahn and from Dick Riordan. Nothing…besides a few strategically placed commission appointments, which is nothing more than a few people to raise their profile, network and make some money after their commission is up. Mayoral candidates know all they have to do is make a few promises of grandeur to a few people who can deliver blocks of votes and they rewarded for their influence peddling. Infrastructure and schools in the black community crumbled under the last three mayors; all promising to be “Education Mayors” and all promising jobs. In the 20 years since Tom Bradley left office in 1993, the no other community has gone as backwards as the Los Angeles African American community.

It’s a sad case study in political leadership secession failure, ignorance in regional urban planning, the absence of competent social advocacy and entrenched economic subjugation. Every community has progressed more than South L.A. Even East L.A., which is still underserved and has many of the same ills as South L.A. has built more community centers, job training centers and more small businesses than South L.A. This may be the most important mayor’s race for the African American community in two generations since 1973.

The next Mayor will most likely serve through 2020. The world has changed twice since 1973, and will most likely change again by 2020. The L.A. black community is still stuck in 1963. Trying to “overcome.” It hasn’t overcome because it couldn’t—nobody was holding us back. It hasn’t overcome because it hasn’t collected on it’s political capital earned on those it has put in office, largely because it either didn’t know what to ask for, or political debts were paid to a few who colleted on behalf of the many. That’s why black leadership, even after they’ve given up their posts in organizations and churches, doesn’t change with the politicians because they can keep them in front of the people in church services and street festivals. It’s a formula…

What community can afford to miss three culture shifts, three market shifts and three labor shifts and expect to survive? The inability to analyze the state of our community has caused hospitals to close, jobs to leave right under our noses and abuse to return to our streets, while all the while “the chosen” to tell us, “It ain’t that serious,” while they escape the reality.

Well, it is that serious, and with sequesters pending, state government in economic recovery and the city being left with economic deficits for a period to come, who is most likely to bring the city into economic while including the black community in the economic/infrastructure rebuilding of the city? Let’s look at the choices; you have one guy that comes off as a “nice guy” with a smile—not saying that he’s not—but right after Villaraigosa, it’s little too soon for me (plus he’s a lil fizzy on his specifics about our community). I’ll pass.

You have a woman that started out a community advocate, got turned out by the downtown money, helped rebuild downtown and forgot about most of the rest of her district. Now you never know what you’re dealing with when you see her. I’ll pass.

You have an outsider who says he can fix government, endorsed by former Mayor Riordan—when all Riordan did was make money for friend by rehabbing City Hall and building new schools through schools bonds. Looks like Riordan light to me. I’ll pass.

Then you have somebody who served as an economic development staffer for two change agents, served on the city council and served her constituents well, has found over a hundred million dollars in government waste (important to a community who’s always being told the city doesn’t have any money) and has some sensible solutions as to how to get the city functioning again. She’s made solid commitments on the two issues most important our community; a stop AND tunnel on Crenshaw, and emergency response times. And there’s substance behind her smile—a sincerity we never got with Riordan, Hahn or Villaraigosa.

Okay, so now she has my attention. Tuesday, she’s going to get my vote. She makes the most sense for this city at this time; a creative reformer with watchdog credentials and a firm understanding that South L.A. makes Mayors, and breaks Mayors—and she gets our skepticism.

Still, Wendy Greuel is willing to take on that challenge. We should make her our choice for Mayor on March 5th. To those in South L.A. confused by the noise and the rhetoric, pay attention. We can’t choose wrong again. I don’t plan on choosing wrong again.

Neither should you….

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.

anthony asadulla samad

Anthony Asadullah Samad