The Nomination: Clinton, Obama, LBJ and Martin Luther King

In the back and forth of the Democratic Presidential primary season Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Rev. Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson and civil rights sparked an unfortunate exchange between hers and the Obama forces.

Clinton was trying to make a point about governing, but her remarks were criticized for pitting Lyndon Johnson’s delivery of landmark civil rights laws with the movement led by Rev. King — all of this in the context of her running against a rapidly rising African American politician who ultimately deprived her of the nomination.

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday at the Denver convention provides a better opportunity to bring up King, Johnson, the presidency and the Democratic Party.

On 8/28 45 years ago, Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his “Dream” speech — one of the most heard and admired pieces of oratory in U.S. history. King’s speech and the movement he led pushed Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats to forge ahead with stronger, landmark civil rights laws for voting rights, accommodations and other aspects of equal opportunity in 1964 and 1965.

Clinton’s intent was not to diminish the civil rights struggle but to say King’s movement and Johnson’s power and legislative acumen were not mutually exclusive. One complemented the other. The Southerner Johnson knew the consequences. “There goes the South for a generation,” Johnson was quoted when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, predicting his party would lose elections and the “solid” South for many years as they surely did.

And now should it surprise anyone that Obama’s multi-cultural background is still fodder for a GOP divide and conquer strategy first invoked by Richard Nixon in 1968?

Obama needs to draw the distinctions sharply between his vision and that of John McCain, especially on economics and the interests of people who “work hard and play by the rules.” In doing so, he should revisit the King and Johnson legacy, perhaps noting that Clinton wasn’t dissing King over LBJ at all.

The betting here is he will recall that long ago August 28th as he prepares to lead Democrats into the fall election. The moment will not be lost on Obama that his political ascendency this week is a direct consequence of both King’s movement and Johnson’s Democrats and what was said and done a generation ago. Obama’s nomination will not be the end all for civil rights struggle, but a fulfillment of a huge piece of the “Dream”.

(Photo Credit: Johnson Library and Museum from

Salvio’s Latest Salvo: Putting His Pet Projects and Partisanship Ahead of the Public Interest

It’s bad enough that New Britain’s share of federal community development grant funds have been dwindling for a long time. Mid-sized U.S. cities such as New Britain used to count on a bigger share of CDBG dollars to address neighborhood and housing issues and to deliver community services that the local property tax would not support.

“Twenty five years ago New Britain possessed more than double the CDBG funds it has today,” noted NB Politicus in a May 2007 post. “When inflation is taken into account the city has no more than a third of the resources it once had to address blight and community development
issues. Of CDBG dollars currently available, much of current funding is dispersed to human and social service agencies because the federal and state pipeline for their services has been cut to the bone as well.”

New Britain’s share has shrunk to $1.9 million in the current fiscal year. Those dollars are sometimes used to fend off blight and improve neighborhoods. Increasingly the federal allocation has also been used to fill gaps in the budgets of community agencies and social service organizations.

That’s why the recent action of GOP Councilman Lou Salvio is so disturbing. Salvio, whose modus operandi has been to use up public resources by filing official complaints against those he disagrees with, complained to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)about City Council approval of CDBG allocations.

Salvio’s latest political salvo was directed at three Democratic Council members who are affiliated or related to persons affiliated with the Human Resource Agency (HRA) and the United Labor Agency, two organizations traditionally in line to get federal dollars because of their anti-poverty and job development services. The three Council members Michael Trueworthy, Toni Lynn Collins and Paul Catanzaro, appropriately abstained from voting on any funds directed to those agencies. In fact, Catanzaro who is Chair of HRA’s Board of Directors, was absent. No conflict on their part. The Council acted in accordance with the regulations.

Salvio, who initially signalled unhappiness with the allocations because one or more of his pet projects did not get funded, complained to HUD over the failure of the city to file a perfunctory waiver to HUD about the Council abstentions. The irony is that the Stewart administration, which uses Salvio as its Council mouthpiece, failed to file the required waiver. This omission opened the door to Salvio’s complaint and a divisive move to derail legitimately voted allocations on a technicality.

Maybe it’s time for Mayor Stewart and his Chief of Staff Lisa Carver to put a muzzle on their Council point man when his actions serve no ethical or public purpose. Heaven knows they know how to muzzle city departments when the press and public come calling for information that should not require an FOI order to be shared.