Miles Davis might have had the right idea.

Sometimes you just need to turn your back to the audience and blow.

Bwwwwwwaaaap!

What is going on behind the scenes in the city of Atlanta's mayoral race?

Bwwwwwwaaaap!

Can Kasim Reed win without the help of the Maynard Jackson Amen corner?

Bwwwwwwaaaap!



Even though I don't live in the city of Atlanta, what goes on there is important to me and the other four million people who live in the Atlanta metro area that surrounds the city limits.

My brother, who does live inside the city limits, says voting was very light in his precinct in the Atlanta's northwest quadrant. "You had to stand in line when I voted here last fall," he said. "Last week I breezed in and out."

Why more of those newly registered Obama voters didn't return is not really a mystery.

I'd like to say that I don't understand why Kasim Reed, the candidate I still like despite the Jackson endorsement, didn't decide to adopt more of the proven winning strategies of the Obama presidential campaign, but I've got a theory about his lackluster performance last week.

It's an idea that began growing in my mind about the time that I heard Brooke Jackson-Edmonds, daughter of Atlanta's first black mayor, on the radio in the last days of the campaign, endorsing Reed as if she was a proxy for her late father.

Reed is a young, vigorous, well educated, clean cut candidate who can crisply articulate his ideas - the kind of African American candidate who could have taken advantage of the huge contingent of Obama organizers and campaign volunteers who live in the city to significantly boost turnout numbers.

Why didn't Reed have better voter turnout numbers? Is it because his advisors still meet at Paschal's and The Beautiful Restaurant, instead of emailing and conference calling?

There's more to it, though, than slapping an "e" in front of your campaign and slapping up a website. To gain access to this new force in American politics, Reed probably would have had to change his message a little bit too, to be more overtly inclusive of those white voters who feel their voices have gotten the short end of the stick at City Hall ever since Jackson was mayor in the seventies.

How bad could it be in the "City Too Busy To Hate" to have white and Latino and Asian Atlanta residents involved in significant numbers at meaningful levels of city government...

...unless your candidacy has been anointed by a clique that thinks it owns the keys to the city?

Jim Galloway, who writes the "Political Insider" column for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, published eye opening emails between Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, Maynard Jackson's first wife, and other concerned citizens about the possibility of Atlanta having a white mayor. Galloway would probably lose his job for writing what I'm about to say, but somebody has to say it.


Maynard Jackson is dead.


Because it seems that within the city limits of Atlanta, there are too many people who won't let the spectre of Maynard Jackson's legacy as the first black mayor of Atlanta go. Too many people who are invested in trying to make the historical significance of Jackson's 1973 style of decision making remain relevant here in 2009, some thirty eight years later.

The unique time that the seventies in the South presented were perfectly suited to the young Jackson's talents. A son of the city, who appeared to inherit much of his political skill from his grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, Jackson didn't crack open the doors for minority participation in city business and city contracts - he blew them wide open, probably because that's the only way he had a chance of changing the status quo.

There's no way to know, no matter how much Monday morning quarterbacking you do, what might have happened to the city of Atlanta if Jackson had possessed a more diplomatic touch, but a look at just about every major urban city that was taken over by black mayors in the seventies will show you that white flight was a phenomenon that affected all of these locales. Losing that part of the tax base crippled most of these cities just when they needed money the most, making it next to impossible for these administrations to keep the pace with the kind of amenities the suburbs had to offer.

Maybe I am particularly sensitive to these kinds of black political machinations swirling around the Atlanta mayoral race because I grew up in a college town with two historically black colleges whose administrations, staff and faculty formed their own insular communities. The college presidents in the old days ran their campuses as veritable fiefdoms, doling out favors and privileges as if they owned their schools, Booker T. Washington style.

A buddy of mine from my hometown asked me years ago how come we didn't live on Atlanta's South Side. How come we didn't consider the Cascade Road area, where a lot of Atlanta's old school movers and shakers lived. "Because I didn't move here all the way from South Carolina to stand at the back of another Negro pecking order line."

A lot has changed in the thirty five years since Jackson was first elected mayor of Atlanta. Some of the walls between America's racial and ethnic cultures have begun to crumble. Things obviously aren't perfect - there are those who call themselves Tea Baggers or Tea Partiers or freedom fighters who are fighting mightily to rebuild those walls that deny non-whites access to power, walls a young Maynard Jackson did a lot to help crumble.

I don't begrudge Ms. Jackson-Ransom or any of the Jackson family and friends for any success or riches they may have garnered because of Maynard Jackson's three terms as mayor or from the many powerful connections he made while serving in office. That's the reality of the political process - "he who wins receives the spoils." And I'm sure the death threats against the Jackson family in the seventies were every bit as real as the ones against President Obama today.

But the handwriting is on the wall.

Without a vibrant city center as a magnet, the Atlanta metro area will devolve into nothing more than an agglomeration of five counties, their tip ends circling the perimeter like charred logs around an extinguished campfire.

Jacksonites, it's time to step aside and make way for the next generation of young political lions to challenge the status quo downtown, the same way Maynard Jackson did 38 years ago, so that ALL the players in the Atlanta of the new millennium can have a seat at the table.






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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

brown man: do you presume to know that it was Mayor Jackson's lack of diplomacy (or any other black mayor for that matter) that caused white flight to the suburbs?

I was going to ask whether you believed the same sort of activity that you criticize Mr. Reed & Ms. Jackson for happens if your last name is Bush or Clinton or Kennedy, but you tried to clean that up.

How many times each week do you hear reference to Ronald Reagan from the republican party?

The reality is this - the 21st century is about the "Haves" and the "have nots". Even in the political arena.

Don't hate the playas, hate the game!

Anonymous said...

Great article...very well written. It befuddles me how Bunnie Jackson-Ransom has declared herself the spokesperson for The Jackson Family when she is not even in the The Jackson Family. Maynard divorced her before most of us were even born. So, she certainly doesn't speak for Maynard himself. It's unfortunate that a great man's legacy continues to be re-hashed in this manner. I'd like to hear more from Maynard Jackson's wife of 30 years and widow Valerie Richardson-Jackson.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Galloway got some serious "heat" for publishing the statements Ms. Ransom made in an email, which caused such a stir. Despite simply stating the facts and being a great and seasoned journalist, he actually seemed to have felt compelled to come out with a subsequent aritcle, urging people to "contain their fire" surrounding the racially charged statements that Ms. Ransom freely made about the Mayoral race between Reed and Norwood.

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