Everyone (even Vogue!) is fascinated by new Compton Mayor Aja Brown--she's young; her background's in urban planning, not politics; she's named for a Steely Dan song; and she's out to turn around a city still fresh from political corruption trials and the brink of bankruptcy. While Compton's historically a middle-class (primarily-black) suburb, in the last couple decades it's become working class (and Latino) as the crime rate climbed and the middle class moved out. The crime rate has actually been cut in half since 2000, but violent crime is still very very high. Brown's opponent in this summer's election was a former Compton mayor who served time on corruption charges and both candidates beat out Compton's last mayor, who presided over the city's brush with bankruptcy. On the night of her election, she declared "I believe the people of Compton are ready for change ? they don't want to go backward. They want to go forward." What does that mean exactly? "I see it as a new Brooklyn," she told the Guardian in a story published yesterday. (This general attitude is going around the Southland lately.)
Last week Brown "outlined an ambitious agenda to transform this poverty-stricken 10-square mile city of 97,000 souls through fiscal reform, construction projects, jobs, better diet and civic promotion," reports the Guardian. The mayor points out that Compton, the Hub City, is smack in the middle of the city of LA, with easy access to freeways, rail, the port, the airport, etc. and says "You kind of wonder why Compton hasn't progressed to the level that it should." (Somehow she blames '80s and '90s gangsta rap for giving the city a bad rep. Artists like NWA made the city famous for its gang activity, police abuses, and economic oppression, but it definitely didn't create those problems.) Anyway, here are some of her big ideas for Brooklynizing Compton (all quotes direct from the Guardian):
-- Brown plans to reach out to rappers like Dr Dre and Kendrick Lamar in hope of sparking change. "The only thing I can do is ask. We all have a social responsibility and have to be mindful of what we do and say. There is more to life than drugs, violence and cars."
-- The mayor also hopes to enlist Venus and Serena Williams – who grew up hitting tennis balls on Compton concrete – in new tennis academies."
-- She also plans to tap Hollywood philanthropy. Scott Budnick, an executive producer of The Hangover films, has agreed to help.
-- Brown has no plans to revive the long-ago disbanded police department, calling it too expensive. Compton will continue to rely on the LA county sheriff's department.
-- An e-commerce project [will] hopefully bring 1,000 permanent jobs.
-- Brown hopes to dent rampant obesity, disease and overmedication, especially of children, by promoting exercise and fresh fruit and vegetables.
· Aja Brown, Compton's new mayor: 'I see it as a new Brooklyn' [Guardian]