By Rosetta Miller Perry
NASHVILLE, TN — Any good public servant has a healthy ego. But when it only serves their personal goals rather than the community’s best interests, it becomes something toxic and negative. In the case of the ‘Gilmore Girls,’ both Erica and Brenda, their raging egos have reached the point to where both are much more the problem rather than the solution for Nashville.
First, there’s the specter of Erica Gilmore being the first African American to announce she was running to be the next Mayor of Nashville. That set off a wave of calls to the Tennessee Tribune, with hardly any adulation or celebration. Only 10 percent of those who called expressed positive feelings about this. The other 90 percent were extremely negative, many were also quite angry. That’s because it has become crystal clear to most observers that all Erica Gilmore’s done has been triggered by a quest for personal power, rather than the needs of the people.
When she initially decided to run for city council, Erica Gilmore had a track record of ZERO public achievement, civic or community involvement. Her sole claim to fame was her mother Brenda being in the legislature. That gave her maximum name recognition to balance out a glaring lack of qualifications.
Even though many District 19 voters were concerned and extremely reluctant to support her, a majority admired her mother. As a result, they elected her. Even though she ran in my business district, I live and personally vote in District 2. But not only could I not vote for her, I wouldn’t have even if I could. My position and responsibility as publisher of this paper means far too much to back someone whose integrity and honesty are at best questionable, to say nothing of not paying their dues.
Since that time, despite being a Black business owner on Jefferson Street, Erica Gilmore only found time on three or four occasions in EIGHT years on the council, to meet with us. Those meetings only came after repeated calls and insistence regarding their importance. The Black business owners badly wanted the Police Administrative Building Project on Jefferson Street. We wanted to reduce crime, have the young ladies from Fisk, TSU and Meharry Medical College, indeed all the HBCU students, given better security and protection from criminal elements.
Erica said she would support us in that initiative. We talked at length to Police Chief Anderson about this, imploring him to influence the hiring of students in the local social agencies who would be housed in that building. In this way, these students could walk to work and not have to catch a bus or use Uber to get to work in Green Hills and other areas and then return to campus late at night.
But after giving us her promise of backing, we were double-crossed and devastated as she went before the Chamber and opposed it. The Black business owners on Jefferson Street have neither forgotten nor forgiven this betrayal. We’re even taking into account the knowledge that politicians in general are masters of deception. The difference here is we didn’t anticipate it from someone who supposedly would benefit from this as much as we would, since she was also an alleged business owner. Nor did we expect blatant lying on such a critical issue that affected a major portion of our community.
If that wasn’t enough, despite a lack of experience and credentials, Erica Gilmore currently is employed at Tennessee State University in a job paying at least $65,000 a year. Now, she’s seeking a promotion and salary increase almost up to three times more at $180,000 as mayor despite once again, her glaring lack of qualifications. There are unemployed educators with years of experience in our community with doctorates who weren’t given the opportunity to apply for that position.
The Tennessee Tribune has fought its entire existence to make sure opportunities go to Blacks and Latinos, even our friends in the majority community. We’ll fight every bit as hard to keep plum positions out of the hands of egotistical, unqualified hacks who’ve ascended to leadership status solely because of family ties. We urge Erica Gilmore to enjoy the $65,000 job she currently holds and leave the electoral offices to those who really want to help others instead of just pumping up their own egos.
It makes me even sadder to say what I must about Brenda Gilmore, someone I’ve always admired due to her social skills rather than her intellect. She retired as Director of Mail Service at Vanderbilt University. She did some great things in a career position Black women seldom get the opportunity to even apply for, let alone attain. It’s a sad and familiar story for Blacks in this nation’s postal service. This is an oversight that should be more closely chronicled by historians and academics.
Brenda was on the Metro Council representing District 1 from 1993 to 2003, but was far from an effective council member. Yet, she still wanted to move further up the ladder. She joined the social/civic organization Top Ladies of Distinction, and was welcomed in this group by many — most notably Rep. Edith Taylor Langster, who had 12 years experience on the Hill and was a very popular politician.
Brenda Gilmore was only in the organization a short time before she decided she wanted Rep. Langster’s position on the Hill. That started a demoralizing two-year period for Top Ladies, something I observed personally as a member. It was the first time in the group’s history we had to deal with a power struggle between black sisters who were not only members, (a Delta and the other an AKA), one that eventually resulted in Brenda Gilmore defeating Rep. Langster. For many Black women in both the organization and the community as a whole, that period opened a wound that has never healed.
But just as I forgave our former beloved mayor, I forgave Brenda for paying Delta Sigma Theta sorority dues with campaign money and using campaign funds to pay for many other personal things for other groups, among them the League of Women Voters and National Council of Negro Women.
Her justification for this in her own words was:
“Being a part of these organizations gives me a chance to interact with people that I represent on a first-hand basis. They give me their input on legislation, problems that need to be addressed in their communities and the effectiveness of state government.” According to her definition of ‘proper use of campaign funds,’ these actions were justified.
But even if I am willing to overlook what she did, lying about why the money was used cannot be forgiven. No matter how Brenda might want to excuse it, it is illegal. Brenda should have done what former Mayor Barry did, either admit the truth and just be quiet — never lie! We have a President with zero morals and even less integrity. If you can’t trust a person with a little bit of money, what does that say about what they’ll do with access to even more, as well as power.
Gilmore called the various membership payments, including to her sorority, legitimate uses of campaign funds. Paying such dues like sorority and other social and civic group memberships are just as inappropriate as paying your personal bills.
What I don’t forgive is lying about why the money was used. How is it that Brenda believes that she must pay her sorority dues inappropriately with campaign funds just to obtain input from her Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters. As a member of a sister sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. that is not what sororities (which some are her constituents) require in order to be heard by their elected officials regarding what’s needed in the state legislature. Shame on you! It was illegal, illegal, illegal no matter how the words were twisted. Integrity is what is needed in government.
I am from the Pittsburgh, PA. and I remember my dad (70 or more years ago) was upset when his nephew, a local politician, purchased a $400,000 home with cash and he moved to an Italian neighborhood. When he so called ‘arrived,’ he was then too good to live among us, but always came back to the black community for his ‘get over black votes.’ My dad said it was that “Jungle Juice.” I have to ask as my dad said, ‘What politicians are drinking Jungle Juice today?!’