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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Observations as ‘Just Tellin’ It’ marks 16 years of service

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As “Just Tellin’ It” finishes 16 years, I begin with the recommendation of the Lawrence Township trustee and Township Board to merge their fire department into Indianapolis.’ If OK’d by the City-County Council, this will occur on January 1, 2011.

That means the percentage of African-American firefighters in IFD will shrink further. It’s estimated that adding Lawrence Fire into IFD will reduce the percentage of Black firefighters from 15.2 percent to 13.5 percent. In a city/county that’s 27 percent Black.

While Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub continue with their invisible plan to increase IFD’s racial diversity, both are planning to close two fire stations in Black-majority neighborhoods. Station 23 on Bursdal Parkway in the UNWA/Riverside neighborhood and Station 5 at 16th and Capitol may be closed.

A private developer (Clarian?) wants the land where Station 5 sits. That cash would allow the city to build a new station at 16th and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets. But that would leave the entire Riverside/UNWA neighborhood, an area with older structures with greater fire risk, many housing senior citizens, without a fire station.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s office (and Black Expo) recently bragged about their increased commitment to utilizing minority-owned businesses. So, why can’t I find contracts with minority-owned businesses in the city’s fancy new, searchable contract database?

You can search the city’s Web site to locate all city/county vendor contracts since Jan. 1, 2008. You can find contracts based on vendor name, city/county department, contract amount or other search indices. But, inexplicably, you can’t search the database asking to see MBE (minority), WBE (women) or VBE (veteran) contracts. Why?

If the Ballard administration is serious about transparency (their favorite word other than sustainability) and if the administration has really expanded their utilization of minority-owned businesses, shouldn’t their contract search engine allow me and the public to search and read every minority-, women- and veteran-owned business contract?

I’m sure once the mayor’s point man on minority business reads this, he’ll have the city’s IT wizards correct this problem in time for the start of this column’s 17th year!

Now that the Pacers have taken $33 million in taxpayer cash, I’ve got questions about the continuing lack of racial diversity in the Pacer’s front office.

Two years ago, the Pacers bounced longtime Black front office employee Kathy Jordan. Sam Perkins, the former Pacer great who handled player relations, was let go, as was Pacers legend Mel Daniels.

Now, the Pacers, with fanfare, announced that Clark Kellogg, who was already on the payroll helping with the team’s TV broadcasts, would be VP for Player Relations. But Kellogg has been based in Columbus, Ohio.

Pacers officials haven’t said if Kellogg is relocating here. Plus, Kellogg’s work as CBS’ lead analyst on college basketball makes him unavailable during several weeks of the year.

While Kellogg is well qualified for the task, why didn’t the Pacers search for an African American, who could devote 24/7, 365 to the team, the franchise and the community? Why do the Pacers have what might be the fewest African-American front office executives of any NBA team?

Oh, if I’m wrong, Pacers braintrust, show me how your front office diversity compares with the other 31 NBA franchises. Including Utah.

Speaking of diversity…

After three years, WRTV/Channel 6 has parted ways with anchor Todd Wallace, the first African-American prime time male anchor in Indy in some 18 years. Wallace, whose three-year contract expired at the end of August, left the station last Tuesday. Despite making a big deal of Wallace’s arrival three years ago, Channel 6 officials didn’t tell Indy’s Black media about his departure. And though Wallace remains under contract until the end of August, his bio, photo and blog were erased from the station’s Web site.

Three years ago, Wallace was paired with Trisha Shepherd in a highly promoted move by the station to move up in the local TV news wars. But, was Wallace made the fall guy for the station’s failure to leave their perch as either third or fourth in the four-way local TV news battle?

Wallace’s departure leaves no Black male anchor in weekday primetime on local TV news. But Channel 6 did promote an African-American, Erica Flye, longtime weekend anchor, to be co-anchor of their 5 p.m. weekday newscast.

But in the critical late local news, with Wallace’s departure, Channel 6 returns to a monochromatic newscast, in a city that’s 27 percent Black; a metro that’s 15 percent and the TV market that’s 11.5 percent Black.

That’s a surefire recipe for permanent fourth place status.

Meanwhile, WXIN/Fox59’s replacement for the beloved Cheryl Parker is a dynamic, intelligent anchor with an unusual name – Fanchon Stinger. She comes to Indy from Detroit, where she won numerous Emmy Awards and plaudits for her journalism excellence and community involvement.

Stinger’s hiring also marks something new for Indianapolis TV. Stinger had problems in Detroit. Not with her TV work. But a personal matter that brought some controversy. However, she learned and grew from that experience; turning a negative into a positive.

Fox 59 officials saw in Stinger someone whose professionalism and drive will carry Fox 59 News to the next level; challenging Channels 8 and 13 for dominance in local TV news.

He wasn’t the outspoken activist like his father. But in terms of his love of people and desire to help the poor and less fortunate, Rev. Roosevelt Sanders very much resembled his dad – Rev. Mozel Sanders.

After his famed father’s death in 1988, Roosevelt not only accepted the call from his father’s church, Mt. Vernon, but accepted the community’s call to continue the tradition of feeding thousands of Indianapolis’ needy on Thanksgiving.

The Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Dinner effort began as a simple ministry in the basement of Mt. Vernon. After Mozel’s death, his son created the Mozel Sanders Foundation, which gave the dinner a financial structure and greater purpose.

Working with WTLC, Rev. Roosevelt Sanders made the annual dinner radiothon an Indianapolis tradition.

He also helped found Westside Community Ministries and was a quiet force for good in our community.

God called his servant Roosevelt Sanders home Sunday, at the much too young age of 63.

To his beloved partner in life and work, Stephanie, and his family, including his church family, our deepest, deepest sympathies on the passing of this gentle lion of our community.

But I know he’s in God’s kitchen with his dad helping do his heavenly work.

See ‘ya next week!

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