By Michael Goldstein
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By LA Weekly
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Suh is at least as pragmatic as Shockley, though his emphasis is more on economic, rather than social, equity. Suh believes that it is incumbent upon Korean financiers -- bankers, businessmen -- to spread the wealth around by helping aspiring black business owners acquire loans and technical assistance; he believes such relationships would not only spur the economy, but would go a long way toward ameliorating black-Korean tensions. "Sharing culture is fine," he says, "but culture is not what gets people together. It's people utilizing resources and identifying common ground." The candidate is quick to point out that this is something he has already done -- with an Entrepreneur Program for African-Americans and Latinos and an annual job expo at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. He also favors building an international trade center and establishing a small-business service center.
Keen as he is on private enterprise, Suh's career thus far has been in the public sector, first with the city's Department of Water and Power and then with the county's Employment Development Department as a job counselor -- an interesting twist on the tradition of many black pols who started in public service. He's also picked up some black support: endorsements from longtime black business advocate Muhammad Nassardeen, founder of Recycling Black Dollars; community activist Narishema Osei, who has agitated for more black employment on construction sites throughout post-riot L.A.; and L.C. Scott, owner of Midcity's World on Wheels skating rink. Nassardeen says that Holden talks the black talk, but ultimately doesn't walk the walk. "A Korean councilman might feel more interested in the black community than Nate," he says. "For the last 12 years, Nate hasn't used his leverage in Koreatown to do anything, like maybe getting a corporation like Hyundai to locate in all of those closed car lots on Crenshaw. We have to start building different coalitions."
As well as a different ethical atmosphere, adds candidate Brown, a black woman who believes that 36 years of black male leadership in the 10th District is enough. "Me and all the kids that I mentor were down at a City Council meeting last year, during the time when Nate was going through all those sexual-harassment suits and [Mike] Hernandez and [Richard] Alatorre were facing drug charges," she says. "My kids turned to me and said, 'You can do all this and still be in office? Why don't you run?' That's when I decided to."
Brown is president and co-founder of Fu-Gen Inc. Research and Investigation, a private-investigation firm that specializes in worker's compensation, fraud, liability and sexual-harassment cases. Like Suh, she is campaigning as an advocate for small-business growth, chiefly by "unbundling" clusters of city contracts that go to large firms, thereby increasing opportunities to bid. She is also a tireless youth mentor who runs MOSTE (Motivating Our Students Through Experience), a volunteer outfit that presents seminars at Audubon Middle School on everything from sex education to proper workplace behavior. Her endorsements include the Ventura chapter of the Black American Political Action Committee and the National Women's Political Caucus. "Most important, the people have endorsed me," says Brown, whose campaign has raised a respectable $50,000 thus far. "I'm a fresh person, I'm not polluted, I don't owe anybody favors. That scares people."
THESE BEING THE '90S, THINGS ARE NOT (excuse the expression) black and white.
A lot of black people don't like Nate Holden. He's never been a big-picture guy, they say, and as much as he may tout black power, he has never crafted a real agenda for black development, economic and otherwise. What he does do is campaign ferociously; not only has he raised $190,000 so far, but he managed to persuade Joint Council 8 of the powerful Service Employees International Union to rescind its early support of Shockley and throw its weight behind him.
Holden has a rep for ensuring that potholes are filled, streets are paved, neighborhood nuisances like graffiti are addressed. He loves to show up at block-club picnics, small fund-raisers and backyard barbecues in his district, coat slung over one shoulder and city proclamation in hand for your grandma's 90th birthday or your parents' 50th wedding anniversary. A graduate of the Kenny Hahn school of grassroots governance, he prides himself on staying close to the streets -- not a visionary move, but one that nonetheless stands in stark contrast to the intellectual posturings of a Mark Ridley-Thomas or the inaccessibility of a Rita Walters. Those who vote for Holden remember the days of segregation when basic services in black neighborhoods were not a given, and in these days of ongoing urban decay a trimmed tree or a paved street looms significant in the civic scheme of things.
Holden himself insists that he has always done what his constituents want. "I come with training and a lot of experience," he declares. "I'm going to bewith the new leadership. I'm supported by people of all stripes, but if people who are in the most need are minority, I help them. New is not necessarily better."
Come April, and possibly June, 10th District voters will decide if that's true.
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