I have voted in every election since 1954 (55 years). I have never cast a straight party vote in all those years. The year of 1958 was the last time I voted strictly on a racial line. I have always realized that all Republicans, Democrats or Blacks were not good or bad. In fact, if it were up to me I would pass a law making it illegal to vote a straight ticket.
Across this nation Blacks overwhelmingly have voted a straight Democratic ticket and it has proven to be detrimental to us as a people. The time is long overdue for Blacks to support candidates based on ability, concern and a commitment to leveling the field for us. How do we make that determination? It is based on a track record in politics or life’s track record, not necessarily what you say, but what you have done when provided with the opportunity.
The one question I pondered as I listened, watched and read statements by all three candidates was why do you want to be mayor? I am disappointed that there are three candidates running, because it makes it more difficult for an independent to have a legitimate chance of winning.
A good friend of mine asked me to support her choice—Dok Harris—and I asked why? The first answer was he is a brother, and I responded with so what? Then she stated he was youthful and well educated. My response was I don’t vote color, and all three are youthful and have degrees, but is he running to win or running for name identification for a future political race? I believe the future and once I heard him on the radio explaining why he left town during G-20 it was definitely obvious to me.
Someone said to me you ran, and my response was, “I never once asked anyone to vote for me because I was Black and since you bought it up I ran because I absolutely refused to live in a city that Blacks make up 29 percent of the population and not one of us had the courage or concern to run.”
Incumbent mayor Luke Ravenstahl, in my estimation, is consumed with big business and has almost no concern about the city wards, particularly the wards that are predominantly Black. His lack of visibility or addressing the multitude of problems would make me believe that he has adopted the attitude of too many politicians that Blacks no longer vote and if they do they will vote the straight ticket.
Another issue that disturbs me to no end is that it is unbelievable that his administration does not have one Black cabinet member. There has not been one since Sophie Masloff appointed Rev. James Simms.
The new program, which cost $200,000 intended to address crime could be better spent by addressing the deplorable statistics of Black men being denied an opportunity to be gainfully employed. If we could work at decent paying jobs it would stabilize our families and homes and our community.
We should cease participating in the BIG LIE that “we don’t want to work” and address the major issues of Blacks being excluded from contracts, professional, goods and services or construction.
I am not supporting Kevin Acklin solely because he and his family have been visible in neighborhoods at a number of events that are community-oriented or because his family has experienced some of the same problems that too many of us have. Kevin has a history of community involvement long before he decided to seek public office. I was present at a rally one night and the question arose why do you sacrifice your income from your law practice to engage in an uphill campaign for mayor? Kevin never hesitated. He stated emphatically how much he loved the city of Pittsburgh and how he was greatly disturbed by the fact that the leadership has completely failed to make the city of Pittsburgh be all that it should be. He then continued with no written answers that in order for Pittsburgh to maximize its potential it must involve more than the building of a casino, riverside development, condominiums and five star restaurants (Downtown). Kevin asked the question how could the city fathers justify the unbelievable amounts of money being concentrated in select places and with other neighborhoods deteriorating steadily? He answered his own question by stating that a city cannot survive without substantial investments in the neighborhoods. Kevin then related his personal involvement in Homewood where there exists a need for a Marshall Plan, a community with an unbelievable unemployment rate, vacant lots, deserted houses, and houses in every stage you could imagine.
Space does not allow me to divulge the entire message, but he convinced me for several reasons. One was he never once made his campaign personal by attacking the current mayor or pretending he had all of the answers, but his sincerity, his current record of being involved in community building, and his personal achievements in his personal life convinced me to support Kevin Acklin.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)