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Transportation and representation: its time to put up or shut up


In a classic case of conflict anxiety, Black Angelenos–city and unincorporated folk–will get (or have gotten) the complicated opportunities this week (and before the end of May) to strongly influence political decisions to be made on their future.

The decisions will be made–that’s a certainty. The issue is whether Black community folk will show up in numbers for their own interests and advocate for decisions that are for their mutual best benefit, or will they be content to stay on the sidelines and complain as they are disrespected and mistreated in the aftermath of those decisions.

Black folk need to get on up and get on out to the meetings at which those decisions will be made.

The votes of the MTA authority, and the Redistricting Commission, will not just be by the book. They will be subjective; they will be cultural; they will be class-based. They will come from both hard data and the will of a loud-voiced community.

One of the MTA meetings was scheduled at 9 a.m. at the One Gateway Plaza address of the Metro Authority, behind the Alameda-Union Train Station in downtown Los Angeles, last Thursday, April 28, but has now been re-scheduled for May 26, same place and time.

The local Redistricting Commission meetings were held as scheduled–in Los Angeles City Hall last Thursday and in Lancaster Sunday. The only Southern California meetings left are in Norco today (May 5) and Santa Ana tomorrow.

The commission is currently on a statewide tour to provide as many residents as possible the opportunity to render testimony about their communities. The commission will use that accumulated information, along with new U.S. census data now available, to draw new congressional as well as state Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization districts.

The commission was created in 2008, because voters decided to take the power to draw state political districts away from the state legislature and give it to this new 14-person Redistricting Commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans and four members who can and have declined to state their political party affiliations. In 2010, voters also added U.S. congressional districts to the commission’s authority.

In theory, political considerations are barred from the commission’s work, except to ensure that no incumbent, candidate or political party is favored or discriminated against in the maps to be drawn, and to ensure that electoral districts are of equal population, that those districts comply with the Voting Rights Act, and that those districts are contiguous and respect communities with common interests.

The commission is scheduled to release its first set of new draft maps to the public on June 10.

The law requires the panel to approve final redistricting maps for California by Aug. 15.

For the Metro issue, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has made a powerful request that the Metro board reconsider its earlier rebuke of the wishes of the majority of homeowners and business folk in the Crenshaw district between Exposition Boulevard south through Florence Boulevard. The board can vote to include underground construction of the rail line in the area, and a preferred stop on Vernon and Crenshaw, so foot traffic will easily take tourists and business investors straight to Leimert Park Village, with its many retail shops and cultural cuisine items.

But the board will have to be convinced to do so. In order for that proposal to be successful, we all need some real booties in the balcony. Black folk need to be seen in the aisles, halls and in the seats to demonstrate our sustained interest in the supervisor’s proposal. No people, no pressure, and no positive vote. That’s how it works. So get there.

By the way, just so you know, based on a $546 million federal loan already appropriated for this Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor project, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has the money to fund Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ proposal and to begin building the 8.5-mile light rail line from the Crenshaw District to near LAX in late 2012 or early 2013.

The project is expected to create at least 5,000 jobs, including some for Crenshaw- area residents.

This new light rail line will allow direct train service from downtown Los Angeles to an LAX transit center slated to begin operations by or before 2016. Trains will take passengers on the Exposition Line past USC to Crenshaw Boulevard, then head southwest down Crenshaw (hopefully underground) on new tracks through Leimert Park and Inglewood to link with existing Green Line tracks near the airport, where buses will take passengers the rest of the way.

The other issue is state redistricting. Many people are nonplussed in discussions regarding this issue. Here’s the plain skinny: the Southland’s Black population is in real danger of losing half or more of its four U.S. Congresswomen, its eight Legislative Black Caucus members, and its one Black seat on the State Board of Equalization. In other words, it is more than just possible that we will move two giant steps politically backwards in the next several months, if we sit idly and try to wait this out. We need chocolate on the boards to provide support for our two Black redistricting commissioners, Andre Parvenu and Connnie Galambos-Malloy.

We must demonstrate our community-of-interest in each of the elective seats we currently occupy.

We cannot mail this in; we must continue to be at every relevant meeting, as we were last Thursday, possibly including the upcoming meeting in Oakland in May. This issue needs Black faces by the hundreds, even thousands. Assuming political people who are not us (and even when they are) will do the right thing for us is tantamount to acquiescing to our own degradation.

We needed to show up or be thrown out of any future political-economic development in the Southland, and we responded. The commission saw and felt our presence and now know we are constructively engaged in this process. All who did not make it or who did not get a chance to speak should write the Redistricting Commission and re-emphasize our “communities of interest” in maintaining the current boundaries of U.S. Congressional Districts 9, 33, 35 and 37, and State Assembly Districts 47, 62, 48, 52, 16, and State Senate Districts 25 and 26.

So, what are you going to do people? The onus is on you and me to put our political size 13’s on the floor headed to the decision-making halls. Black booties in the chairs for Black political futures. What say you?

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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