Monday, October 06, 2008

No City For Old Men

This maven is becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of Richmond. I simply cannot get any respect. (R-E-S-P-E-C-T, for you Aretha fans.) As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Richmond Education Association, our local teacher’s union, did not endorse me for election to the School Board. That is after I spent several hours filling out their questionnaire and was interviewed by a panel of three teachers who, quite frankly, had no idea what I was talking about when I said that Richmond’s biggest problem was our disappearing middle class. So, who did the REA pick as their choice for the fourth district school board seat? Adrea Graham Scott—at least twenty years younger than me, female, African American, well-spoken, and just plain nice.

Then, there is the Richmond Crusade for Voters. I participated in the Crusade’s candidate forum. The maveness and I joined the Crusade. The maveness and I attended the Crusade’s annual banquet (at a cost of $100). We had a great time and met a whole bunch of good people. So, I figured when the Crusade called me in for an interview this was my big chance. Another interview, another panel who really didn’t understand the point I was making. So, who did the Crusade endorse for the fourth district seat? Adrea Graham Scott—at least twenty years younger than me, female, African American, well-spoken, and just plain nice. Another “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” for the Maven.

Maven, I’m beginning to detect a pattern here.

Wait devoted reader. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Then, I received a call from the Coalition for a Greater Richmond. These are the good government guys. These are the guys who are searching for new leadership for the Metro Richmond area. They wanted to interview me. So, eagerly I went off to talk to them. Guess what, dear reader. For the first time in this process I felt that this panel actually understood my concerns about Richmond’s middle class bleeding off to the suburbs to find better schools for their kids. I explained my plans to deal with this problem. I went home from the interview feeling really good. Then, just last Friday came a letter from the Coalition. I held it in my hands like a high school senior anxious to find out if my favorite college had accepted me. I peeled open the letter slowly, like Charley peeling open a Wanka Bar looking for the golden ticket. I read the letter. The Coalition endorsed. . . Adrea Graham Scott—at least twenty years younger than me, female, African American, well-spoken, and just plain nice.

Now, trusted reader, I am ready to admit that there seems to be a pattern here. This maven is in a batting slump. I am 0 for 3. No hits, no runs, who knows how many errors.

So, let’s analyze this. If I were a group endorsing a candidate for the Richmond School Board, who would I choose? Would I choose a curmudgeonly grandfather who has actually worked in the schools for the past three years, who understands from the inside what problems the schools face, who has been studying and writing about Richmond Public Schools, who has concrete proposals for making the schools better (especially here in the Fourth District), who has relationships with many of the VIPs in Richmond (mayoral candidates, city council members, school board members), and who knows how to get things done? Or would I choose somebody who is at least twenty years younger than me, female, African American, well-spoken, and just plain nice, but who does not have my experience, and runs a campaign based on slogans rather than plans (“I’m passionate about parental choice” “Great Schools Build Great Communities”)? So, who would I choose? What does Adria Graham Scott have that this maven doesn’t have?

Well, for one thing, she is a woman and I am a man. Can there be some form of gender discrimination going on here? Well, I hope not. Of course, Adria is African American and I am Caucasian. I would hate to think that in the year 2008 any group in Richmond would base its endorsement on the color of a candidate’s skin, so I will not accept that this is a matter of race. Adria is well spoken, but so am I. Adria is just plain nice and I often let my anger get the best of me. Well, maybe it is the nice versus nasty that wins her the endorsements.

Wait, Maven, what about the she’s “at least twenty years younger than me?” Let’s face it, Maven, she’s young and you’re old.

Stop right there, reader. This maven does not feel old! For weeks I’ve been walking around the Fourth District, up and down lots of stairs, talking to my neighbors. In the words of James Brown, “I feel good!” I am motivated. I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. It’s almost like I’m on a mission. So don’t tell me I’m old!

Maven, how old are you?

Eureka! That’s it, dear reader. I figured it out. It’s not gender, it’s not skin-color, and it’s not even my temper. No, it’s all about the future. Let’s face it; I am sixty-four years old. At the end of my school board term, I’ll be sixty-eight. I expect that if I feel I am accomplishing something I’ll run for another term on the School Board. But that will be it. I have no expectation, and neither does anybody else, that I’ll ever run for City Council, or the General Assembly, or mayor, or even the Congress. I have no future.

But Adria is all future. When Kathy Graziano is ready to retire, I can see Adria running for City Council. If there is a vacancy in the House of Delegates or the State Senate, I can see Adria running for those seats. I would not be in the least bit surprised if one day Adria became mayor of our fair city. And, from what I have learned about her during this campaign, I would be proud to support her in any of those endeavors.

But, devoted reader, the trouble is not the future. The trouble is now. Frankly, with regard to Richmond Public Schools, Adria does the talk but not the walk. Richmond Public Schools is not where her experience lies. Before George Braxton announced his retirement, Adria was certainly a good parent, but the general educational welfare of the children of Richmond was hardly on her radar. In short, this is not Adria's time.

So, now I understand. The REA and the Crusade and the Coalition did not endorse Adria Graham Scott as the best candidate for the School Board in 2008. Rather, they endorsed her for her potentially shiny future. They all want to jump on the band wagon and to be able to say “we endorsed her back then.”

Hey, out there, I’ve had a great time writing this. I finally understand what Paul McCartney meant when he wrote these words back in 1967:

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I'm sixty-four?"

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