To Rob and Ashley:   

Hello, my name is Ken Robinson and I just finished reading both of your commentaries (Damn the Torpedoes and Hidden Agenda) in the May 21st issue of Lagniappe, and must say I’m a bit blown away by the animosity and contempt you show for Mobile’s black political leaders. Let me first state I’m no great fan of Sam Jones. In many ways he was not the most adept political leader, yet he did accomplish a lot of good and in my opinion his tenure as Mobile’s mayor did not differ much from Mike Dow’s in substance and policy. Though he had his faults, he wasn’t corrupt nor incompetent, and I believe between his time served on the Mobile County Commission and as Mayor of Mobile, he has proved that.

Should he be appointed to serve on the Mobile Water Board as District One’s representative? Why not? For the past three decades that privilege and purview has always been relegated to the discretion of a district’s council representative. A district’s council representative speaks for HIS or HER’s district. So with good reason the city council as a whole has always deferred to the good judgment of the respective councilperson regarding their individual appointments. Until now. Without any precedent, four councilors from West Mobile (who are all white) voted against the appointment of Sam Jones. Immediately afterward the current Mayor had no comment about the action, and was videoed walking from the city council meeting smiling and in a good mood. At the next meeting Councilors Richardson, Manzie, and Small abstain from voting for a small beautification project for Councilwoman Gregory’s district and there is a torrent of anger and vitriol loosed! Mayor Stimpson becomes enraged and storms out to go record a YouTube video, the West Mobile councilors cry foul and unfairness, Councilors Richardson, Manzie, and Small are accused of being, amongst other things, racist. Meanwhile, many of us in the African-American community have a stunned “WOW!” reaction.

It’s hard for us to reconcile how a group of all white councilors, undoubtedly with the tacit support of the Mayor, can strike down an appointment of another councilperson purely out of personal and political disliking of his appointee, yet when a message is sent to said councilors (rightly I would add) that if all of a sudden you are going to change the rules we will also play by these new rules, the white councilors and their supporters get outraged.

One thing Sam Jones is not is the “Great Divider,” the man’s lifework just does not speak to that title, yet it shows how deeply personal this has gotten amongst many in Mobile, like yourselves, who don’t like him. To not acknowledge the political ineptitude and just plain dumb actions of councilors Williams, Daves, Rich, and Gregory for voting against Jones appointment is to show a serious blindness to the racial and political reality that exists in Mobile. It’s very difficult NOT to see their action as not being racially motivated to some degree. If Sandy Stimpson were truly the great unifier you claim him to be, surely he would have advised against the West Mobile Councilors making such a move that would obviously be interpreted as racially and politically motivated, and deeply divisive. Fred Richardson was indeed right when he said Reggie Copeland would have never allowed such a thing to happen.

The actions of Councilors Daves, Rich, and Gregory, those of Mayor Stimpson, along with the views expressed like those in your commentaries are, at the least, very elitist and paternalistic. The basic message I hear is that all of you know what’s best for “us” and to not follow your wishes is foolhardy and requires immediate rebuke and condemnation. Even to the point of publishing editorial cartoons that suggest Councilman Richardson’s political career is about to be buried, or that the three black council members—and only them—-are the ones that are uncooperative. Does “One Mobile” mean we always listen to and heed one voice: Mobile’s white, elite voice? Whether you choose to see it or not, that is the message that has been sent, that’s how the actions of Councilors Williams, Daves, Rich, and Gregory, along with Mayor Stimpson have been interpreted. And as I read these two commentaries, sadly, they simply confirmed it.

Thank You for your time.
Ken Robinson