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Linder questions motivations behind Council resource center vote

Thursday, May 5, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The city of Austin’s African American Resource Advisory Commission gave its formal blessing to a funding proposal for an African American Youth Resource Center Wednesday. If City Council echoes the commission’s action, the facility – which would fall under the umbrella of Michael Lofton’s African American Men and Boys Harvest Foundation – would get $150,000 during the first year and then $60,000 per year for the next two years.

 

But before the commission gave the project their seal of approval, co-Chair and NAACP head Nelson Linder offered his colleagues some context. “I know, politically, sometimes different politicians will grab a project because of the political capital … and that’s okay,” he said. “But sometimes the smaller groups who don’t have the … political capital don’t get included.”

 

Last Thursday, Linder was present as Council Members Randi Shade and Chris Riley, along with Mayor Lee Leffingwell, offered an item instructing City Manager Marc Ott to develop a funding proposal for the facility. Council members Bill Spelman and Sheryl Cole raised questions about the measure in cordial tones that belied some amount of frustration about its timing, as well as the fact that Cole was not a co-sponsor.

 

Cole holds the seat that has been traditionally prescribed for African-American Austinites, as part of the city’s so-called “gentleman’s agreement.” Shade and Riley are currently up for re-election.

 

Shade, Riley, and Leffingwell each played a role in the Council’s rejection of a settlement between the city and the family of Nathaniel Sanders last year. Sanders was shot and killed by Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana in May 2009. Quintana was eventually dismissed from the department for other reasons.

 

On Monday, In Fact Daily reported that Cole was spotted escorting Shade’s Place 3 campaign opponent Kathie Tovo around to several meetings. Cole has also reportedly said that it would be in “the best interests of the city” for Tovo to beat Shade in the Place 3 race.

 

Linder told In Fact Daily that he felt that “there is definitely a political component” to the actions surrounding the recent Council motion. “Those two people are being criticized in many black communities about what they didn’t do last year,” he said about Shade and Riley.

 

“They haven’t done enough consistently, in my opinion, to really earn the African-American vote,” he later added. “So we have concerns about why they are on this now.”

 

Still, he was quick to note that their motion for funding for the resource center was a good thing. “Beyond politics,” he added, “it’s still a necessary thing.”

 

Linder also mentioned the Sanders case, noting that “if resolved properly (it) could heal a lot of wounds in our community on every level.”

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