Sunday, December 04, 2011

Florence Leaders Show How It's Done....

Former Rivals Leatherman, Wukela Join Forces to Fix Oakland Ave.

As we often state, DC is in gridlock.  Political affiliations matter more than the idea that the person who brought it up is.  The greatest idea on Earth is meaningless if the member is a 'D', and you're and 'R' or vice versa.  Quite possibly the biggest reason nothing happens, partisanism to us is a four letter word - with a few extra letters for good measure.

Republicans in Florence County often get very frustrated with both sides of the aisle.  Nothing is as it seems. All Republicans are former Democrats, and most Democrats are Republicans who are afraid of losing by not getting the black vote.  Yeah, it's a generalization, but it's true for the most part.  The good part about it is that the nebulous and fuzzy party affiliations often make the strangest - and most constructive- of bedfellows...

Case in point.  In 2006, Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) was up for re-election against a young attorney, Stephen Wukela.  No one gave Wukela much of a shot against Leatherman, but Wukela gave a good race, and showed that he had some chops to be a good candidate for the Democrats - he just was running for the wrong office.  Leatherman won handily, but Wukela would soon be back when the right job came up.

Fast forward two years... Wukela takes on current Mayor Frank Willis (Republican in disguise?), and Wukela stuns Willis by a single vote.  Meanwhile, Leatherman pisses off a good portion of the local GOP by talking any and all viable candidates from running, so when Wukela wins, there is NO Republican opponent.  A token independent candidate runs, and Wukela rides to victory, based on his hard work, and some help from the Barack Obama wave....

Now, many candidates win and think the hard work is done, but what does a smart winner do? He shores up his weak spots, and works with the other side to build his base.  Meanwhile, rather than just resting on his laurels, Leatherman recognized (along with a lot of others in town) that Wukela has done a pretty good job, and will likely cruise to re-election in 2012.  So, what does each do? They find a way to make some good happen, and stick it to a common foe.

That foe, of course, is City Councilman Ed Robinson.  His home base is North Florence, easily the poorest section of town.  Oakland Avenue is the crown jewel of poor there: a main drag of no commerce, poor drainage and too many kids loitering in front of a gas station with more security gating than any place I've ever seen.  Robinson's solution is not more cops, but a building for them to play basketball.  Leatherman and Wukela have a better idea: infrastructure, and the possibility of commerce.

Wukela and Leatherman announced a major project to redo Oakland Avenue, which includes improving drainage and I'm sure some aesthetic improvements.  If you've ever been to Oakland Avenue, you know there is absolutely NO commerce going on.  You have to build the sewers and roadways to attract businesses there first.  Yeah, kids need places to play, but their parents need places to work.  That, and if your neighborhood looks better, you're more apt to show more pride in it.

Politically, it's extremely smart and shrewd.  Wukela has already amassed an impressive list of staunch Republican supporters, including Kingmaker Eddie Floyd.  Hickory Head will have no trouble getting re-elected, as long as he gets more than the 400 votes Robinson gets every 4 years. Meanwhile, Leatherman is Leatherman.. the job is his til he quits or dies...  Meanwhile, Robinson has little response for the improvements if he does run.  It might be time to just admit these guys DO care at least a little bit about fixing his neighborhood...

Thanks to bi-partisanism, North Florence will look a lot better, and have a shot at a brighter future. For it, Leatherman and Wukela will be rewarded with easy re-elections.  You see, it actually works.  Washington, are you listening?


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