Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Biddle On Carson's Last Stand

Former Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle offers a stinging rebuke of U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's political career as she nears the end of her life, battling terminal lung cancer. In the American Spectator, Biddle offers these critical comments on her career:

But for the black communities in Indianapolis she represents, the so-called queen also represents an increasingly archaic feature of America's urban political landscape: the old-school black politician who emerged during the latter half of the Civil Rights Era. Building and maintaining power through political machines, race-baiting, appeals to black pride and focusing on doling out welfare to poor constituents, this group, which includes such legendary figures as Congressman Charles Rangel of New York and the late Coleman Young of Detroit, elevated themselves into the American political vanguard. Their success, however, did little for their communities . . .

Carson expertly exploited the race card: During a 2002 re-election campaign, she stormed off the stage during a debate, accusing her Republican opponent, Brose McVey, of "racial polarization" after a series of ads, including those from the National Republican Congressional Committee, accusing her of failing to pay her property taxes on time. But she did more than just race-pimping. Hammered by media critics and her Republican opponent, former auto dealer Eric Dickerson, last year over her poor health and performance, Carson revealed his decade-and-a-half-old arrest to the Indianapolis Star, claiming he "beat his wife into a pulp."

As she rose to the top of Indiana's black political establishment, a cadre of allies rode on her coattails. They, in turn, became arrogant and corrupt. Last year, a group of them, including the wife of the city-county council president, Monroe Gray, Bill Mays -- who owns the city's leading black newspaper -- and Carson's longtime majordomo, Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer and city airport board chairman Lacy Johnson, opened a bar inside a government building named for her -- located in a neighborhood already infested with alcoholism and liquor stores -- and tore out a playground on the grounds for customer parking, despite widespread neighborhood and media opposition. Carson, known for taking fellow Democrats to task for failing to support gay marriage and other "progressive" issues, said little. Meanwhile the quality of life in Carson's district -- and in Indianapolis, in general -- hasn't exactly improved. In Indianapolis Public Schools, the city's largest school district --and with
significant black leadership in the ranks -- 80 percent of black and white males drop out of school, making it the home of the nation's most pervasive collection of dropout factories; other school districts in the city fare no better.

Meanwhile abandoned housing and rising crime -- including rates in some categories rivaling those of New York -- plague the very impoverished, mostly-black, neighborhoods Carson claimed were her concern. Some 108 homicides were reported in inner-city Indianapolis (the area patrolled by the now-defunct Indianapolis Police Department) in 2005 versus just 59 homicides 20 years ago.

Solving such problems requires a black leadership less concerned with power, groupthink and playing the race card. It also calls for a younger generation of black men and women, born long after the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, who are far more iconoclastic in their political thinking and more concerned with improving the economic and social status of both themselves and their fellow citizens overall. Carson and her allies, however, have eschewed them and, more often than not, demonized those who decry their corruption.

Carson's impending demise will likely lead to a battle between her old guard allies and younger leaders within the Democrat party to eventually take her place. Sad as her death will be, it is an opportunity to bury a style of political leadership that has done little to serve poor urban communities.
While I think Biddle is dead-on with some of his criticism of Carson, to some of us it is too little too late. Biddle, along with his former colleagues at the Star, allowed Carson to unfairly capitalize on an old domestic violence charge against Eric Dickerson and used it as a reason for endorsing Carson for re-election over him, even as Dickerson's wife refuted the charges publicly. At the same time, Biddle and his colleagues continually swept damning allegations against Carson under the rug, including persistent questions about her declining health. If the newspaper had held Carson to the same standard it held Dickerson, Dickerson just might have defeated her last year and the 7th District wouldn't be effectively without representation as we are now.

Hat tip to Ruth Holladay.


Bart Lies said...

Surely people realize that RiShawn wasn't fired for saying things that 'offended' anyone. He was fired because he said exactly what was on his mind. That's what The Star's management fears most - a barking dog they can't muzzle.

The 'news biz' has become a PR tool and no longer serves as a stick with which to prod the community into thinking for themselves.

It is wonderful that RiShawn hasn't allowed the muzzle to be installed.

Anonymous said...

There is no one more bitter than a man scorned......

Anonymous said...

it wasn't gay 'marriage' you nitwit! It was the HRO and it was about human rights extended to the GLBT community.

Take your sour grapes and your own racisim and stick it.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon. 4:12, you are correct that it was the HRO that Carson lectured Ron Gibson, et al. for voting against. I don't recall her railing against them for not supporting gay marriage. It's a significant factual mistake for an award-winning journalist to make.

Anonymous said...

You are correct. Gay marriage has NEVER been an issue discussed by the city council.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with much Mr. Biddle has to say, but his commentary on Ms. Carson's impact on Indy is dead-on. Re-writing history does nobody any good. The black community, as a whole, needs to come together and demand more of those who claim to represent it. The decline of Indy during her House tenure should be obvious to anyone who lives here.

Anonymous said...

What Biddle failed to mention was the fact the more than 160,000 residents have moved out of the old city limits of Indianapolis since 1971. Old pre-Unigov Indianapolis is Carson's district.
That trend continues as evidenced by the ever shrinking enrollment of IPS whose boundaries are the old city limits of Indianapolis.
I do not recall even one new business that Carson helped bring into her district unless you want to count the shake houses.
Many black scholars have written far worse about Carson and her cadre than Biddle ever could.
She was someone who could have done so much and yet did so very little other than enrich those within her circle.

Anonymous said...

Biddle needds Fact Check.

Among most educational experts and observers, Biddle's IPS comments would get a huge "you're right."

But where does he get off saying the other township systems "fare no better" ?

Using test scores and other measures, even the worst of the township systems, probably Warren is a beacon of hope compared to IPS.

And the other township systems, up to and including Washington, recognized as the best, need help, but my God, they don't graduate 20%

Not even close to that low.

Biddle, on this one, used a Tully trait: write it while sitting on your brain, without breaking a sweat to check the little things that could make your story so much more accurate.

It's lazy journalism. Period.

Anonymous said...

IPS' boundaries are not the old city limits of Indianapolis. In fact, IPS has schools located in eight of Marion County's nine townships. The only township with no IPS school is Franklin.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:52 Please leave Julia alone..she is near death...have you no shame?

Bart Lies said...

"Anon 5:52 Please leave Julia alone..she is near death...have you no shame?

8:11 PM EST"

Speaking of shame. 75 days without a functioning representative, it's clear Carson will never return to her office, still she clutches the representation of her entire District in her dying hands.

Shame, shame, shame. What's more important: ensuring the people's business carries on, or clutching to the title of an office in which you can no longer function?

Anonymous said...

You are incorrect. IPS is and always has been inside the old city limits of Indianapolis. IPS is NOT just Center Township alone.
Look at the 1970 City map and then look at the current IPS boundaries. They are identical.