Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

>Western Tribune Column November 4, Langford’s conviction

November 13, 2009

>Western Tribune November 4, 2009

No one was really surprised at former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s conviction last week on 60 counts of bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud, false tax returns and money laundering. Much was said and written about what a sad day it was for Birmingham, as people realized that once again, a local politician had been found to be corrupt.

What does this say for the city, which lies in a county struggling to stay afloat (I’m being generous, as I don’t think the County Commission is doing a damn thing to help the situation) and teetering on bankruptcy?

I understand that when one emerges from a courtroom with a guilty verdict that emotions are running high. I also recognize that Larry Langford can’t resist a microphone, and in this case, it was a bad situation for both him and his wife, Melva.

He started to stop her from speaking, knowing, it seemed, what she was about to say.
“He is not guilty. Only in Alabama can a black man not get a fair trial.”

The former mayor concurred, arguing that the jury was not made up of his peers. Of course, he is the one that requested the change of venue, and his attorneys had just as much say in the jury selection as did the prosecution. Three of the twelve jurors that decided the case were African-American.

It’s sad that racism was charged, that our entire criminal justice system was questioned, and that blame was shifted to the media.

But the chance for new leadership is certainly nothing to be sad about. Acting Mayor Carole Smitherman is not the answer. She is part of what I call “tired, old leadership,” because I am tired of the old leadership. Patrick Cooper seems like the candidate who, if elected would look beyond race and geography as he tries to bring the region together. Bessemer is part of that region.

What would really have been sad would have been an acquittal.

Had Langford been found not guilty, think of the message it would have sent to future candidates. The temptations are already bad enough for politicians. If Langford’s actions had been justified, office seekers could have practically campaigned on promises of “Slip me a little something and you’ll see your business increase.”

Sadness will soon give way to spirited campaigns as Birmingham elects a new mayor. Let’s hope for a truly, new beginning.