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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Politicians of Convenience

The Other Side of the Tracks Commentary by Perry Redd August 7, 2013

I’ve been watching the early stages of our city’s race to replace our current mayor, Vincent Gray. We’ve got a slew of early petitioners for the seat. They all seem to look the same: anti-people, pro-corporation, anti-Black, pro-gentrification, though one candidate is trying to distinguish himself as different from the pack. Tommy Wells has swore off taking corporate donations during this campaign. I find it funny that, all of a sudden, he “got religion.”

One of the things we can agree on is that the American voting populace is keenly aware of the way money buys a seat in government. Most Americans are sick of it—unless they can get their piece of the pie. As a former candidate that shunned corporate donations, I find that a highly principled position. In contrast, Tommy Wells has served on the DC Council since 2007—taking corporate donations all along the way. He also had to get elected to the ANC positions he held (our version of neighborhood councils), never in the past swearing off corporate donations. Why now?

Well, let’s see…last week, Councilman Wells introduced a bill to de-criminalize marijuana, just in time for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs report that said that arrests in the nation’s capital have disproportionately targeted Blacks. The report found that that between 2009 and 2011 Blacks in DC accounted for 83 percent of all arrests. The report also found that wards with higher Black populations saw more arrests and that those residents accounted for 91 percent of all drug arrests. Wells wants to do something about this grave injustice…now.

He’s been in elected office since 2000; why do you think he’s suddenly concerned with the plight of Black people in the city? Oh, did I forget to mention that Councilman Wells also picked up on the idea that I drummed into the conscience of Washingtonians during my run for an At-Large seat on the Council: a Living Wage ordinance.

You see, our Council approved a bill requiring large retailers to pay their employees above the city’s minimum wage—what they’re trying to call a “living wage”—after Wal-Mart warned that the law would jeopardize its plans in the city. The retail bully had linked the future of at least three planned stores—located in predominantly high-unemployment Black communities—in the District to the proposal. The Council still voted 8-to-5—with the people—to make large retailers do right by the people.

Some hatchet-men sent out by Walmart framed the bill as “singling out Walmart,” although the bill was targeted toward any retailer with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger would be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage. In America’s fourth most expensive city to live in, $12.50 an hour is small potatoes.

Anyway, in order to allay the hatchet men, Wells introduced the ordinance. All in all, I’m glad he did, but what I want you to note is the timing. Wells wasn’t interested in making the people whole in a unrighteously gentrifying city—until he chose to run for mayor. With all of the corporate donations he won’t receive, he’d better get to the Black folk in order to compete, much less win. Though no longer the majority of the adult population, the 47% that Blacks hold is enough to win the mayorship. How utterly convenient…

I can tolerate any man (or woman) who has a bout of conviction in their moral character; what I cannot stand are politicians of convenience. They’re no less than wolves in sheep’s clothing. American history ought to have taught Blacks about that type of calling card. When that phone rings, you’d better not answer. As a matter of fact, once it stops ringing, you better take it off the hook!

Don’t get me wrong, his opponents are ten times worse! Councilwoman Muriel Bowser is a bedfellow of Citizens United and ally to anyone with a corporate check. Councilman Jack Evans has ducked so many federal investigations that his 22 years on the council are like Swiss cheese: full of holes. There’s an ice cube’s chance in hell that the working class and poor people of DC have a chance with either of them.

I want to wish that our current mayor—a native Washingtonian—was for the working class of this city. He too is under federal investigation. His dirty politicking and lock stepping with corporations have him likened to a frog in a boiling pot. I predict he’s goin’ down. Gray turned out to be a grand disappointment to the people who thought he would be a man “of the people.” Instead, he has turned out to be the very thing that taints the chocolate in “Chocolate City.”

With that said, what are our choices? It’s a devil’s brew. Will a phoenix rise out of the ashes to compete for the people’s best interests? Will a candidate step forward with a consistent and cogent plan for inclusivity in the nation’s capitol? Will there arise a person who respects all people, not only when it’s election time? Will there come a candidate who’s unafraid to say Black in regards to people and not just artwork?

We know that in 2010 some 30 percent of the city’s Black men were arrested, compared to two percent of their white counterparts. There’s a racial divide in this city that only a strong, consistent and unfettered leader can boldly make and take a moral stand on and change this twisted city into a bastion of righteous progression. Just look at their voting records and you’ll see who made out well in this city—and who got the shaft. The shafted ones can make all the difference in DC’s 2014 election, leaving the disingenuous ones holding the bag. What I know is that doing something simply because it’s convenient shall always come back to bite you.


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