Re "Riordan Castigated at Ceremony," Jan. 8: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." To further her political career, state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) betrayed Dr. King's legacy and failed at an opportunity to unite the mayor of Los Angeles and the citizenry of his black community.
At what was planned to have been a peaceful setting, Watson should have used the moment wisely by addressing the loss of her constituency's youth through gang violence, the continued prostitution of her constituency's daughters on Broadway and Figueroa Street and teenage pregnancies. All of which would have been heard by Mayor Richard Riordan and the constituencies that both he and Watson share. But Watson chose to forget about her community's ills in order to deliver a political attack on Riordan.
For loyal public servants, the senator's actions didn't make much sense. But for those of us that know Watson, who will be the victim of term limits in 1998, what she did makes a lot of sense.
In conclusion, the black community is not suffering from the mayorship of a white Republican, but from a black leadership that is obtuse to the needs of its community. Riordan should realize that, in order for the black community to benefit from his administration, he should seek the help of other elements of leadership that exist in that community. For Watson, her allies and supporters, there is more profit in failure. And for the amount of tax dollars required to maintain an elected official, the black community, in most cases, is ailing from "taxation without representation." In 1775, this caused a revolution, and in 1992, it caused a riot. Historically, Watson's tribute to Dr. King failed the black community, Dr. King and herself.
CARL L. McGILL
Chairman, Black Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles County
* As a longtime supporter of Watson, I was never more proud of her than when she stood up to Riordan and articulated the doubts that many of us have about his desire to be the leader of a diverse city and not just a corporate manager.
Rather than turning the city around, as he promised, Riordan seems more intent on turning out those who don't agree with him.
People are affected by what a mayor thinks as well as what he does and if, as Riordan says, he is "colorblind" but won't take a stand on affirmative action, he at least needs a new pair of glasses.
* Watson's outburst against Riordan was completely uncalled for and poorly timed. I have been a resident of Los Angeles for 45 years and have never seen a mayor try to do more for minorities and their respective communities than Riordan; however, there is only so much a mayor alone can do.
I commend Riordan for showing restraint and withholding response to Watson's blistering criticism. Affirmative action programs, if based strictly on race, accomplish very little for minority groups, yet waste millions of dollars. As a society, we must instead address the need for better education and job training for minorities if they are to be competitive in the job market. Reliance on federal- and state-assisted programs for their employment is not the solution.
The mayor is right to recruit the most talented people, and not be governed by quotas based on gender or race, whether they be minorities, women or men. This is not the issue. Hiring the most talented and qualified people for the job should be the goal. I therefore encourage the mayor to continue hiring the most qualified individuals to help solve the complex problems facing this city and to ignore Watson's untimely and divisive criticisms.
* Watson's racist demagoguery at the expense of Riordan should be condemned by all responsible Californians. At a time when Los Angeles is trying to clean up its act, this mindless, racist rhetoric does nothing but further divide the community.
RICHARD J. SILVESTRO
* It seems that Watson blames Riordan for all of the city's problems. Maybe Watson should blame 20 years of Tom Bradley as mayor. Bradley left a city with huge gang problems, high unemployment and a big hole under Hollywood that they call a subway. Bradley also left a demoralized Police Department that was understaffed and underequipped.
Watson should thank Riordan for even attempting to clean up the mess Bradley left. Instead of just flapping her gums, Watson should actually do something for Los Angeles.
MARK A. MUCKENTHALER
San Juan Capistrano