District Three Election Has Gotten Unnecessarily Ugly

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - District Three election and Tea Party dirtSome weeks ago in my column for the year’s end, I talked about change coming to our community and to our country. One of the things that I wrote was that rumors have it that the Tea Party is going to start telling lies about one of the candidates to replace Chris Holden in the District Three race. I spoke to each of the three candidates, John Kennedy, Ishmael Trone, and Nicholas Benson, and indicated that I would not endorse or get involved in writing about the race. I then wrote as a warning that we should watch out for the dirt being thrown around by white agents and politicians to influence elections involving Black candidates. I then asked, ‘hadn’t we seen enough of that with the election of President Obama?’

But then the dirt began to fly. In a sense, historically, it is the nature of the political beast to throw a little dirt and hide. It’s the hiding that makes me angry. When the dirt gets to be mud, it needs to be addressed, and so based on what I have recently read in other media, and the debate that I watched on the candidates, here is my opinion.

First, most of the mud flying seems to be coming at John Kennedy and Nicholas Benson. As for Kennedy, the mud is coming from letters that talk about an incident that happened in 1993 involving a gun incident Kennedy and a 20 year old man (not a child) were involved in. A jury found that Kennedy was not guilty of a felony that he was charged with, and that case was closed. The mud slingers who chose to hide their hands sent out letters saying that “Kennedy was a grown man having a close relationship with a young man”. In the same letter the invisible/anonymous coward writing the hit piece says, “Kennedy shot a kid”. The strong impression is that John was somehow having an inappropriate “relationship” with a child. Nothing in the case indicates anything about a child or sex. Then, the hit piece talks about past Pasadena Police Chief, Jerry Oliver, being a wife beater and hiring John Kennedy.

In both relationships, older Black men could be said to have taken younger Black men under their wings as mentors and mentees. Isn’t that what we need more of? Is John Kennedy liable for the problems of Jerry Oliver who gave him a chance to become an administrator of a police department in another state? What about the positive experience Kennedy got as an administrator of a police department in Virginia, one of only two states in the United States that has elected a Black Governor? Could it be that the education he got at Howard University Law School was beneficial to the state of Virginia? Lest we forget, it was Howard Law School that gave birth to Thurgood Marshall who fought and defeated discrimination in the Courts, while Dr. King was defeating racism and discrimination in the streets. Couldn’t it be that Kennedy’s experience would be beneficial to Pasadena, also? I think, YES.

On the note of Kennedy’s being tried for a crime, how many Black men have been tried for crimes they didn’t do? I for one as a senior at Pepperdine University (1968) with an 8-day old son was arrested, jailed, and taken to court by LAPD charged with felony battery on a Police Officer. The charges were dismissed. Would that disqualify me for a life of service, too? It is clear that a white person wrote these letters demeaning Kennedy because, unfortunately, the writer would have a different experience than they write about, if they were Black.

What they don’t say is that John Kennedy would do District Three and this city of his birth proud. His experience as an administrator who has written legislation in two states, graduated Law School. He has worked as a Civil Rights leader as president of the Pasadena NAACP and works today as a Senior Vice President of the Los Angeles Urban League, America’s premier Civil Rights organization. The Urban League has long been an organization that provides training and employment opportunities for African Americans into Corporate America.

As long as mud is being thrown, I notice that it is selective. No one has mentioned the troubles the Trone family or the Holden family had with the law. It’s a Black Thang, a rite of passage, like the strange fruit hanging from southern trees of the South. Just cause we get arrested, or hung, don’t mean we did something wrong. Some would say that the District Three race has had enough mud thrown around to cover everybody. Trone has been the subject of numerous attacks about his residence, raising questions about whether he actually lives in District Three and if he is eligible to run. He has had his run-in with the law and guns, and it isn’t clear at this time if he has a conviction. What is known is that he has worked hard on various commissions and boards and takes credit for many projects like the renovation of Robinson Park, and work on local hiring at the Rose Bowl and Heritage Square.

What he hasn’t done is disavow the garbage letters that seem to be coming from his supporters dogging Kennedy and Benson. Of course he is, therefore, charged with being the author of some of the garbage. To quote singer Donnie Hathaway, “The truth seems to be hiding in there somewhere.” Sooner or later, it will come out, as it always does. Can Trone do the job in District Three? Probably. Is he the best for the job? Only the voters will tell.

Then there is Nicholas Benson, a good–hearted man whose South African experience seems to have given him a heart for the people. He has been involved with helping people as a minister, educator and counselor. He has headed the Ministerial Alliance which required his colleagues to have enough confidence in him to make him their leader. He understands the needs of people and their issues and, while not as polished as his American bred opponents, he is a people person. He has made no negative comments about his opponents and was legitimately hurt and confused about an article in the Pasadena Weekly which talked badly about him, without ever mentioning one positive issue he has been involved with.

I say the writer of the hit pieces on Kennedy and on Benson, for that matter, is a Tea Partier, like those who tried to “lynch” President Obama with the same type of name calling. Didn’t they say he was a traitor, fascist, Kenyan, communist, terrorist, American hater, and so on?

In his inaugural address, President Obama addressed the Tea Party–types when he said, “For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay or treat name calling as reasoned debate. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us . . . “

I say, as President Obama said, “It’s time to stop the name calling and act to address the problems of today’s youth, seniors and citizens of all ages.”