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Airports, Airplanes, And Airheads
7/9/2014 3:20:35 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Last week was a busy one. Holidays make my weeks more hectic, they cut down on the time I can work. I’ve always worked holidays. I’ve had only two real jobs, orderly at hospitals and news paper reporter. Neither allows for holidays off. I’m used to working on holidays.

So I didn’t really consider that I was off when I had the Fourth of July conversations that prompt this column. Both conversations basically were about the same thing - airports, airplanes and airheads, or should I say Black elected officials doing what they’re supposed to.

The first call came from a guy asking me to consider that folks are working really hard at Charleston International Airport to insure that Black businesses share in the multimillion dollar revenues that are generated by the airport.Never mind that redevelopment of the airport will cost some $200 million which will be split by contractors and suppliers over the next couple of years, few of whom will be Black. But Black businesses don’t share in the revenues generated normally at the airport either. No Black owned businesses got anything out of the $29 million operating revenue generated at the airport last year.

Black business owners make no money from any of the stuff sold or the services provided at the airport. No donuts, coffee, sandwiches, gift shops, janitorial service, none of that. The skycaps contract (skycaps are the guys who take your baggage from cars into the airport) used to be Black owned, but that deal ended in controversy a couple of years ago.

A couple of months ago Charleston County Airport Authority Board Chairman Andy Savage told me lack of diversity on the board impacts Black business participation in airport business. There only are two Blacks among the board’s 13 members - brothers Teddie and Spencer Pryor. The more Blacks on the board, the greater their impact, Savage reasons.

Savage noted that in May local state legislators had the opportunity to name four new authority board members. None of the nominees named were African American.Neophyte Charleston Sen. Marlon Kimpson got his butt handed to him in a sling for failing to use his clout to nominate a Black appointee when the senate delegation put two new members on the board.

The House delegation had the opportunity to name two new members as well. Each member of the legislative delegation had the opportunity to name a nominee. No Blacks were nominated.

Now, politics being what it is, I know that deals and trade offs are made. Nobody wants to talk about the deals however. Kimpson, in fact, nominated a white female who won the appointment. Folks are telling me he was approached about nominating a Black person, but said he already was committed.

I talked to Kimpson who assures me his nominee will prove beneficial to a Black business agenda.The question on my mind is why with four opportunities to get a Black person nominated no other Black legislator is called on the carpet?

There are two Black senators and five Black House members on the Charleston Legislative Delegation.That brings me to the other conversation I had over the holiday. The subject was the initiative to develop an internship and business participation relationship between the Black community and Boeing aeronautic corporation. I’m told the effort was initiated by Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard.

I was really enthused to learn that a local Black elected official was being proactive about getting major businesses to work with the Black community on some positive initiatives. That’s what white politicians do all the time. That’s what all politicians are supposed to do. In the conversation with the guy, we talked about some Black elected officials who act as if they’re scared to make demands for their constituents. Nothing gets me like Black elected officials who retort that they are elected to represent all the people. All the people didn’t elect you. You were elected from a majority Black constituent district. And then there are the dummies. There are Black elected officials at every level who just don’t get it. Some Black elected officials have sat in office for decades and still can’t point to a single thing they’ve accomplished for their constituents.

But you know what? When I think about Black elected officials who aren’t doing what we want them to, I have to ask myself who is the dummy? We the voters in the Black community continue to elect people into office term after term who do nothing for us. We complain about their ineffectiveness yet vote them into another term at the next election. Where do we fit in among the airplanes, airports and airheads?

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