The real issue folks don’t want to talk about

Posted: April 1, 2008 in Uncategorized

No matter what Mayor Kilpatrick did with his chief of staff or how many lies he has told, this is the true scandal of Detroit — and too many American cities. In the wake of the controversy over Rev. Wright, Barack Obama called for a national conversation on race. But we talk about race incessantly already, and Mayor Kilpatrick will carry on his own dialogue by playing on black fears with charges of “selective prosecution.”

What would better serve the interests of African Americans and the country is a national conversation about good urban governance — how to crack down on crime, reform the schools and free the economy from sclerotic government. Detroit awaits it, as its disgraced mayor twists in the wind. (Rich Lowry in his latest piece Destroying Detroit)

In my lifetime I have heard the repeated argument that one of the largest obstacles to Black progress in this country is the lack of Black representation in government—especially on the local level. Also in my lifetime, I have actually witnessed the answer to this plea as cities began electing Blacks to seats of power such as the mayorship, city council, school board members, etc. I particularly remember hearing the plea how police departments needed to be headed by people of color in order to better relate to the community (and let’s not forget the call to increase women and minorities on the police force). Let’s not also forget the call for more Black teachers in our public schools. Despite all of these feel-good changes, many of the problems that we have complained about for years not only persist, but in many cases have increased under non-White leadership. Plus, in many of these cities with “diverse” leadership, discrimination lawsuits have cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year. Where is the conversation about THAT?

While having a government that reflects the people it represents is a good thing, it certainly is no guarantee for good and effective government–no more than if those in control were White.

It is not another conversation on race we need. Please, we talk about it all the time. Instead, let’s talk about the actual RESULTS of the Utopian belief that placing people of color in government by definition symbolizes progress for the community they serve.

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Comments
  1. Wizz says:

    Dumb is dumb… It has nothing to do with color. There are stupid politicians/officials of every color. That does not mean we don’t need representation of our own people in our own neighborhoods.. We just have to stop electing the dumb ones who don’t do anything but collect a check or just do the same ol things to try to hang on to power. I don’t see anything wrong with having someone who actually succeeded through the messes of our communities to try to come back and try change the situation. They have first hand knowledge of the problems. People just need to get involved and stop electing the snake oil salesmen/pimps that we currently have.

  2. MIB says:

    Diversity in gov’t is a practical matter. It’s difficult to direct the goings on in your community when you’ve got no voice in civic affairs.

    It’s important to note that Black people didn’t ask for tokenism. While diversity in itself doesn’t equal production, its primary value is about input. If the outcome is undesireable, at least there’s a greater likelihood accountability will be exercised. That’s part of what ownership is all about.

    Race is rarely discussed in this country on the square. You and Rich Lowry aren’t anywhere near correct on that claim, Duane. There’s no doubt that Mayor Kilpatrick is going to leverage racial politics to his advantage. And while I’m sure many find that distasteful, I’m not altogether sure in his case it’s not just for show.

  3. Duane says:

    If the outcome is undesireable, at least there’s a greater likelihood accountability will be exercised.

    At some point “likeihood” has to materialize into something more tangible than mere rehtoric as in the case of cities like Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans, Jackson, MS, etc.

  4. MIB says:

    “At some point ‘likelihood’ has to materialize into something more tangible than rhetoric…”

    That much is up to voters in their respective communities to decide. You and Rich Lowry attend to your matters; others are capable of handling theirs.

  5. Duane says:

    That much is up to voters in their respective communities to decide.

    And the LEADERSHIP that promises to take them to greener pastures with a government that is sensitive and responsive to their needs.

    You and Rich Lowry attend to your matters; others are capable of handling theirs.

    I wish it was that easy. Too bad my tax money continuously cover the “matters” that apparently cannot be handled by such local governments.

  6. MIB says:

    It kind of goes without saying that when voters determine a politician to be unresponsive, incompetent, inattentive, or worse, they generally deal with the situation. At the same time, it’s intellectually dishonest to lay the totality of a city or state’s problems at the feet of the politicians.

    My beef here is with those who look at a Kilpatrick and scapegoat him for the conditions facing Detroit, which existed long before he took office and were caused by factors outside of any gov’t’s control. Coleman Young may have been a stereotypical ‘Big Boss’ city mayor, but he didn’t sink the U.S. auto industry — and Detroit’s economy. Spencer Abraham, John Engler, and Carl Levin didn’t force the Big Three to focus their manufacturing capacity and marketing strategy (with public subsidies!) on building SUVs. In fact, Dennis Archer and Kilpatrick have been rather successful luring new businesses to Detroit.

    It seems there’s always a clique with their thong in a knot, however, and so it is with Kilpatrick, who’s apparently been an agent for gentrifying Detroit as fast as possible since taking office. Ray Nagin was essentially doing the same thing in New Orleans prior to Katrina doing it for him. These politicians are obviously delivering something of positive value to the lion’s share of voters. That’s why they keep winning. The detractors are just mau-mauing. The ills you cite — dilapidated public facilities, neighborhoods with high unemployment and crime rates, blight, etc. — are the legacy of something much larger than typical gov’t bureaucracies or the isolated case of corruption can explain.

    But it’s easier to scapegoat a John Street, or use him as a straw man to deflect honest conversations away from race and reconciliation. Otherwise, the Duane Brayboys and Rich Lowrys would have no one but themselves to answer for the allegedly sorry state of affairs and your types aren’t about taking that kind of ownership. That’s for the real leaders.

  7. Jason Proe says:

    With rising costs of suburban homes and excessive commutes this problem will soon correct itself. White people are moving back into the nation’s urban areas. Soon, African American incumbents will face strong challenges from a new wave of politicians that represent the interests of these new constituents. They will be challenged on their record of service in their urban area and unfortunately, based on that record most of them will lose.

  8. Duane says:

    At the same time, it’s intellectually dishonest to lay the totality of a city or state’s problems at the feet of the politicians.

    Perhaps if I actually believed this, it would make it easier for your argument to stick. The problem here is that I do not subscribe to this belief at all. Neither I or Lowry made such a suggestion, yet you insist on making it for us in order to make your argument work. As far as Kilpatrick goes, while his actions are not the root cause of what has been ailing that city for years, they certainly have done a good job in putting out bad PR for that city. Not something you want to do if you are trying to attract investment in your jurisdiction. So he has in effect has contributed to the downward slide of that poor city.

    Laying ALL the blame on a particular mayor for the state of the city is the equivalent of laying all the blame on my mail carrier for not getting my paycheck to me on time. But unlike a mail carrier, a mayor is an elected official whose job is to MANAGE the system.

    While a mayor cannot be held fully responsible for the goings-on in his city, the voters elect him to help make make the wheels of government more responsive to the needs of the constituency. Local elected officials are not the impotent figureheads that you are shamefully trying to make them out to be.

    One of the most unfortunate things about local politics is that the majority of voters are not as interested in taking part in elections as they are on the national level. Local politicians use this to their advantage by relying heavily on local unions and other large organizations who greatly benefit from their traditionally close relationship with local government. Voter apathy is often one of the main reasons why certain politicians are re-elected. In the case of folks like Ray Nagin or Congressman William Jefferson, they were actually loosing until they whipped out the race card and made it an “Us vs. Them” fight.

    But it’s easier to scapegoat a John Street, or use him as a straw man to deflect honest conversations away from race and reconciliation.

    Another example of where you are trying to force a square peg in a round hole.

    The interesting thing about your whole argument here is that you are trying to get your water wet-free. In other words, on one hand you make the point that Blacks in local government have no real power in the first place yet in the same breath you suggest that they serve as a much needed voice in the world of politics. Which is it? Making them both would qualify under the tokenism you suggested earlier. While I am inclined to agree with the point about Blacks serving as a much needed voice in the process, the fruit of this “voice” has done very little in addressing the issues Blacks have been complaining about for years in these particular areas.

  9. [quote]Coleman Young may have been a stereotypical ‘Big Boss’ city mayor, but he didn’t sink the U.S. auto industry — and Detroit’s economy. Spencer Abraham, John Engler, and Carl Levin didn’t force the Big Three to focus their manufacturing capacity and marketing strategy (with public subsidies!) on building SUVs.[/quote]

    MIB:

    This statement does not capture the entire story.

    First of all – we must state – the auto industry BUILT UP Detroit to the heights that it did reach in the 1950s and 60’s. They provided jobs and a strong tax base. The employee’s salaries allowed for communities to pop up.

    On the downward slope – the departure of the various auto manufacturing operations also meant that the city’s fortunes were in the tank. I so frequently hear the blame for this demise placed squarely on the corporations – the same ones that BUILT UP the city. They were making SUVs when the Japanese were making smaller cars with more quality. Please recall during the 1980’s when Chrysler was on the brink – there was no such thing as an “SUV” at the time sans the Suburban.

    Why is it that some people are loathed to talk about COSTS OF DOING BUSINESS in the Detroit area? The unions’ compensation demands, the government regulatory environment and the legal liabilities all had an impact on the fall of Detroit. MIB this fact can be born out by looking at the facts of today. There is more DOMESTIC auto production in the USA than ever before. The only problem is that these are not American owned firms doing all of the manufacturing any more.

    Follow the behaviors of BMW, Mercedes, Kia, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan and several others when it comes to settling upon a location for their plants. With few exceptions they are going to “Right To Work” states to avoid the strong union, high regulation, high liabilities of the northern states, particularly Michigan. The key concept that many “pro-labor” people don’t want to admit to is that they are in a MARKETPLACE. Both sides of the table need to experience a “win” in order for business to be consummated. Too often the hostile environment will insure that once the manufacturing plant has reached its end of life and needs to be retooled – the decision to reinvest in that particular property or start from scratch at a new facility that is more business friendly becomes an easy one.

    Just as our people are so keen on detailing the “COSTS” of the unpopular ideology within our community (ie: conservatism) , there are indeed similar “costs” that are associated with the popular ideology within our community. Unfortunately these costs are not often recognized because few people are going to openly talk about the flaws in their own course of action.

    If indeed certain anti-corporate policies drive out big corporations then cities like Detroit need to figure out how to develop new channels for creating jobs for their citizens…….or they risk deflating back to the population levels that were in existence BEFORE the industry that caused the city to inflate came to be.

  10. MIB says:

    Rich Lowry wrote,

    “What would better serve the interests of African Americans and the country is a national conversation about good urban governance — how to crack down on crime, reform the schools and free the economy from sclerotic government.”

    This is a not-too-subtle indictment of ‘Black’ elected officials’ stewardship of their jurisdictions (you used the word, ‘leadership’). While it’s a sweeping generalization — a fallacy — it’s also racist. It’s not even about Kwame Kilpatrick, Ray Nagin, et al., per se, as much as it suggests quite plainly Black people can’t govern themselves. Jason Proe parallels Lowry’s sentiments to conclude once ‘White’ folks move back in the cities and take over gov’t, all will be well.

    As I look at the top of this blog you claim to be ‘the Black Informant’, so the apologia for Lowry begs the question whether you’re a race-baiting agent provocateur. The fact is, conditions in Detroit, DC, New Orleans, and other municipalities with ‘Black’ political leaders are evidently not as dire as they’re often portrayed to those who actually vote. There’s no conspiracy afoot. In post-Katrina New Orleans the first rebuilding priority was the Superdome and convention center. Somebody obviously benefitted from those decisions, and they’re supporting the politicians who made them. The same relationship explains Detroit’s gaining EDS, and Quicken Loans, among other large-scale capital projects and the voters’ support of first Archer, and now Kilpatrick. The Jason Proes are loving it.

    It’s not like you or Rich Lowry care about the Black underclass (or the White underclass, for that matter), so why pretend? Neither of you offer a single, practical solution for remedying crime, unemployment, or decaying public infrastructure, nor are you applying your energies directly toward organizing said communities affecting their voice. Adding insult to injury, you ignore fact of the political turnover that has occured in each of these cities, which serves as evidence the voters aren’t complacent sheep.

    Lowry and folks like you don’t want to discuss race and the effects of racism. Citing Kilpatrick or the far more scandalous Rudy Giuliani in response is a straw man. That’s maybe the biggest disappointment of all. You’re not helping matters.

  11. Give it a rest! says:

    It is time for black folks and all the other residents of urban areas to honestly come to terms with where our tax dollars are spent in our communities and accept the fact that if the tax dollars are overwhelmingly being spent on regressive social programs that overall community is going to SUFFER.

    A few years ago I had a change to contract with the City of New York to provide IT services to its Children Welfare agancy. This was my first change to work directly within the heart of the Black community. Working in the local business district in Jamaica Queens I discovered that at least 95% of the black folks working in that area making over $25,000 a year were employed by either the Fed, State, or City goverment.

    What this amounts to is, NOTHING! Meaning the black folks working for the government were actually in the same spot as their “clients”. Both are essentially recieving a “government transfer payment” as income.

    This means that in reality there is NO money being earned in that community. That community is really NOT generating any tax revenue to pay for things like better SCHOOLS, PARKS, etc.

    As long a black folks are unwilling to consider that every dollar handed out a welfare means less for other services our communities will contiune to suffer.

  12. Duane says:

    This is a not-too-subtle indictment of ‘Black’ elected officials’ stewardship of their jurisdictions (you used the word, ‘leadership’). While it’s a sweeping generalization — a fallacy — it’s also racist.

    Actually MIB, you are the one who is creating blanks to fill once again to make an argument. You know good and well that Lowry did not say or suggest what you are saying here. He is stating the obvious: That since Black folks make up a large percentage of these communities, we should take the lead in holding our elected officials to a high standard of performance. Tossing that into the racism pile is nothing more than a diversion from the truth. Although in this piece he is referring to Kilpatrick, he points his comments directly to “urban governance”. The skin color of the politician does not matter.

    Across the country in cities like San Francisco and Oakland (the so-called crown jewels of liberalism), Blacks have been voting with their feet by leaving this cities altogether to live in areas that are more affordable and offer better opportunities for their families. As it stands now, this trend shows no sign of slowing down.

    As I look at the top of this blog you claim to be ‘the Black Informant’, so the apologia for Lowry begs the question whether you’re a race-baiting agent provocateur.

    As I look further down this page, I also see the title of this post “The real issue folks don’t want to talk about”. And based on your avoidance to address head on any of the points I have raised here (or Constructive Feedback’s), you serve as prime example for this post. Thanks! And while you accuse me of not caring for the underclass, you in turn demonstrate your willingness to dismiss Black elected officials as mere incompetent boobs who are eternally locked in a second-class state behind Whites.

    The same relationship explains Detroit’s gaining EDS, and Quicken Loans, among other large-scale capital projects and the voters’ support of first Archer…

    And if you believe that these companies will be looking to the pool that comprises the over 75% high school drop out rate for its future employees, then you are really on something.

    Adding insult to injury, you ignore fact of the political turnover that has occured in each of these cities, which serves as evidence the voters aren’t complacent sheep.

    Actually if you remember on our last conversation about this, I told you that while turnover from one party to another has happened in places like Los Angeles, New York, etc. , ANY party that has underperformed should be held just as responsible for the overall performance of that jurisdiction for the time they were in control. What you are not willing to admit is that in MOST cases in the cities I have mentioned, it has been DEMOCRATS (specifically, BLACK DEMOCRATS) that have been in control for decades. But according to you, they had no real power in the first place.

  13. Duane says:

    Give it a rest!–

    Working in the local business district in Jamaica Queens I discovered that at least 95% of the black folks working in that area making over $25,000 a year were employed by either the Fed, State, or City goverment.

    What this amounts to is, NOTHING! Meaning the black folks working for the government were actually in the same spot as their “clients”. Both are essentially recieving a “government transfer payment” as income.

    This means that in reality there is NO money being earned in that community. That community is really NOT generating any tax revenue to pay for things like better SCHOOLS, PARKS, etc.

    Very true indeed.

    Now add the cost for programs like welfare and health care and the deficit gets deeper.

  14. Give it a rest! says:

    It wrong to include Healthcare with Welfare. Healthcare is for everyone! Welfare is for the non-productive (board meaning here) amoung us.

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