Sunday, May 14, 2017

EDITORIAL - Oliver Robinson’s Sellout Is Unforgivable - Donald V. Watkins - In effect, Oliver Robinson was paid by the polluters and their business cronies to keep the old "Negro Concentration" neighborhoods below the "Hazardous" neighborhoods. 

Oliver Robinson's Sellout Is Unforgivable
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on May 14, 2017
In May of 1933, Birmingham, Alabama City Engineer A.J. Hawkins released a city map that ranked its neighborhoods and communities as follows:
1. Best
2. Still Desirable
3. Definitely Declining
4. Hazardous
5. Negro Concentration
6. Commercial and Industrial
7. Undeveloped
Black neighborhoods were deemed more undesirable than those areas contaminated with hazardous waste. All-white city, county, and state public officials ran the state of Alabama in 1933. Jim Crow laws and customs were rigidly enforced.
Black Birmingham residents could do very little to improve the quality of their neighborhoods. The delivery of basic city services to "Negro Concentration" neighborhoods was pretty much an after-thought. Yet, this did not stop these residents from trying to improve their communities and plight in life.
By the 1960s, blacks in Birmingham decided that they were willing to face fire hoses, police dogs, church bombings, home bombings, and death in order to end the sweltering heat of Jim Crow oppression. Martin Luther King wrote about the suffocating conditions of racial segregation in his infamous 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".
Birmingham played a pivotal role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Voting Rights Act made it possible for blacks in the South to register to vote and elect candidates of their choice to public office. Over time, the Voting Rights Act changed the color, face, and responsiveness of state and local governments throughout Alabama and across the South.
In 1979, Birmingham elected Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., as its first black mayor. With his election, the civil rights movement that began in the streets had been ushered into City Hall. City government became inclusive, responsive, and progressive in all facets of municipal services, and in all neighborhoods.
During his 20 years as mayor, U.S. News and Report named Arrington as one of the nation's best mayors. In 1982, the Alabama Society of Public Administrators selected Arrington as "The Alabama Administrator of the Year". In 1988, the National Urban Coalition named Arrington, "The Nation's Most Distinguished Mayor". The city was growing, thriving and moving toward equality under Arrington's leadership.
Arrington's election paved the way for a host of blacks to win elections in Jefferson County. For the first time ever, black neighborhoods and communities in Birmingham could see and feel the delivery of equitable city services. Politicians had to earn and respect the black vote.
In 1998, the residents of the House District 58 in the Alabama Legislature elected Oliver Robinson as their candidate of choice to advance and protect their political interests, including their right to live in safe and clean neighborhoods. Robinson wasted no time in selling them out to Birmingham's corporate elite. He quickly gained a notorious reputation in the State House for selling out his constituents. In 2016, Robinson abruptly resigned from office.
On Thursday, John Archibald and Kyle Whitmire busted Oliver Robinson. They reported that Robinson is the subject of ongoing state and federal criminal investigations. According to their in-depth news article, Robinson accepted money from business interests associated with industrial polluters in exchange for his opposition to community and regulatory efforts to designate polluted black neighborhoods in North Birmingham as EPA Superfund sites.
In effect, Oliver Robinson was paid by the polluters and their business cronies to keep the old "Negro Concentration" neighborhoods below the "Hazardous" neighborhoods. Robinson did not give a damn about the four little girls who died in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Church, or the blood, sweat and tears of protesters who gave birth to the Voting Rights Act, when he sold his political soul to the polluters. Instead of serving and protecting the residents of these contaminated neighborhoods, Oliver Robinson took "30 pieces of silver" to sell them out. This act of betrayal is unforgivable.
Finally, we must note that Birmingham Attorney Doug Jones is Oliver Robinson's lawyer in the criminal probe. Jones is running on the Democratic ticket for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. Jones was instrumental in securing an early release from federal prison for former Jefferson County Commissioner Chris McNair. On April 21, 2006, McNair was convicted on eleven counts of bribery and conspiracy involving contractors who worked on a $1.2 billion Jefferson County sewer improvement project that McNair oversaw. He pled guilty to a twelfth count of conspiracy in February 2007. On September 19, 2007, McNair was sentenced to five years of prison. McNair, who accepted more than $850,000 in bribes, only served two years and two months of his sentence.

Donald V Watkins

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