Betty Pleasant’s Weekly Soulvine Column

SOULVINE By Betty Pleasant

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE  — We’ve had an alarming number of water pipe eruptions throughout Los Angeles this year, with none of them having occurred in South Los Angeles. Have you ever wondered why? Well, I know why and I’ll tell you all about it, as I am reminded of it every time an L.A. neighborhood is flooded.

It was June 30, 1993, the late Mayor Tom Bradley’s final day in office and as he prepared for his retirement I encountered him in the City Hall parking garage while he was loading his car with keepsakes to take home. I was then-Councilman Nate Holden’s press deputy and I had City Council parking privileges, I so went up to Bradley and thanked him for his many years of service to the city and extended my best wishes upon his retirement. Then he said to me: “I have something I want you to do when I’m gone.”

“What?” I asked. Then we sat on the bumper of his car and he explained to me that the water pipes in the city are 100 years old and they are not going to last much longer. He said the pipes are going to burst and create a problem all over the city. He then said to me: “I want you to make Mark (Ridley-Thomas, who was then the 8th District councilman) replace those pipes.”  I immediately put on my Butterfly McQueen “Gone With the Wind” costume and whined: “I don’t know nothin’ bout fixin’ no pipes!” To which Bradley replied: “You don’t need to. Mark does. I want you to nag him into doing it; he’ll listen to you.”
Well, shortly after Bradley retired, I told Mark what Bradley told me about the pipes and the charge he gave me to nag the councilman into fixing them. Mark said: “Yeah, he told me and I’ve already started.” A little while later, Mark came to my office at the Sentinel, to which I had returned, and rolled out before me a huge bundle of underground blueprints and specifications and stuff about the repair of South L.A.’s pipes (as if I knew what I was looking at!). I asked Mark: “When this work you’re showing me is done, will it solve the problem Bradley is concerned about?” Mark said, “yes,”  to which I responded, “great; then I don’t need to nag!”
All hell broke loose in South L.A. neighborhoods when the work began and what looked like perfectly good streets were torn up so the ancient water pipes beneath them could be replaced. People were mad about being inconvenienced by seemingly “unnecessary” work. Imagine how they would feel if Bradley hadn’t extended his stewardship of the city into his retirement years and the “unnecessary” work had not been done, thus affording them the opportunity to go swimming in their streets! I think about Bradley and smile every time a water pipe bursts. It’s odd that none of the mayors who succeeded Bradley thought to deal with our 100-year-old pipes until they started bursting. So, add that to Bradley’s legacy as our last great mayor.
PROMISES, PROMISES — Thanks to the work of Councilman Curren Price, a South Los Angeles Promise Zone application has been developed by him, together with the area’s community and political leaders, to be  submitted for the significant federal Promise Zone grant. South L.A. has been excluded from the city’s previous submissions over the past two years. Even Mayor Garcetti signed this one prepared by Price and his people. We’ll discuss its fine points when I get a copy of it.
THREATS — I heard a federal official this week declare on television that the greatest threat to America is terrorism and we must fight it. That may be so for white people, but from my vantage point, the greatest threat to American blacks and their families is the killing of unarmed black men by law enforcement. Terrorists haven’t killed many Americans, yet it seems like American cops somewhere in the country kill an unarmed black man almost every day.
We’re sitting in our homes awaiting the Henderson, Mo. grand jury verdict on what’s going to happen to cop Darren Wilson, who gunned down the unarmed and black 18-year-old Michael Brown in that city. Then earlier this week, local activists had to pressure Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti into ordering the public release of the autopsy report on Ezell Ford Jr.,the mentally challenged young unarmed black man who was killed a couple of months ago by LAPD Newton Division gang officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas. The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting death of John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio. Crawford, an unarmed black man, was gunned down on Aug. 5 by Beavercreek officer Sean Williams while he was doing nothing but shopping in Walmart. The cop killed him in the store while he was looking at toys for his son!! Lord, have mercy!!
I have two sons. Whenever they leave the house, I make the sign of the cross over them and pray to God that during the course of their day they encounter a terrorist and not a cop.
(Betty Pleasant, a longtime LA observer, columnist and urban voice, writes the weekly Soulvine.)

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