Some might view Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin's meeting yesterday with members of Arizona's black community as a politically motivated attempt to make amends for his June 28 "very ghetto" remark.
Some might view Reverend Jarrett Maupin II's initial outrage against Tobin's tweet and his subsequent push for Tobin to meet with members of the black community as an opportunistic attempt to help rebuild his political reputation.
Speculation about possible political motivations aside, Monday night's meeting at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in Phoenix actually seemed constructive.
"Politicians do what politicians do," said Henry Wade, the vice chairman for the City of Maricopa Planning and Zoning Commission. "[Tobin] did not have to come here though. I give him credit for that; he did not have to come."
Wade is right -- Tobin didn't have to attend the community meeting.
Tobin's district is based in Paulden, which is north of Prescott. The attendees of Monday's meeting didn't represent his voting constituency, and while Tobin's tweet wasn't very becoming of an Arizona House Speaker, he wasn't taking too much heat for it.
But Tobin did come, and community members were able to express their concerns over issues such as lack of support for black small-business owners, sub-par education, unemployment, and incarceration disparities.
Tobin told audience members that he could not make any promises, but that he would listen. In fact, there was further discussion about the possibility of an advisory committee to voice the concerns of the black community.
The advisory committee would be made up of black community members and leaders chosen by the community itself. The committee would meet with the Speaker at his office on a monthly basis. Tobin says it would likely kick into full swing during the next legislative session.
"Very rarely are there times when we get into these partisan spats and these racially tinged disputes and something positive comes out, but I think tonight something positive came out," Maupin said.
Amid the constructive dialogue that took place during the meeting, Tobin still was foggy in his explanation of the tweet he sent out June 28 calling Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard "very ghetto."
"I am sorry if I hurt folks' feelings; that was never my attention," Tobin said. "My assumption is that calling people [bitches] is ghetto language. That's what my assumption was...Having not known that he was an African-American, I would probably have cut and pasted with something like, 'Shame on you for using the B-word.'"
Maupin said he's moved past the tweet.
"We moved beyond the apology," Maupin said. "This was about, 'Mr. Speaker, you apologized for your remarks, yes, you regret your remarks, but what are you going to do to help black people in Arizona?' He spoke to that today."
Many of those in attendance seemed to have moved past the comment as well and were eager to see if Tobin would continue to reach out Arizona's black community.
"I don't think it was piecemeal," Wade said. "I think he was sincere in wanting to come. Now, what the outcome will be, that's still left to be determined."
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