Monday, January 1, 2018

The Mayor 1.07: "Here Comes the Governor"

“Aw man, that figures. I spent my whole life not doing crimes. I had a pardon waiting on me the whole time!”

I’ve got to say, as someone who has been interested in politics for most of my life and works in government, this episode really made me think. It made me think of the summer of 2008 when I attended a meeting at a public housing complex in Baltimore where city officials were giving a presentation to residents about the big redevelopment plans for the nearby State office complex. An elderly resident said something to the effect of “You people always say things are going to change, but they never do.” It’s nine-and-a-half years later, and for a variety of reasons, there has been no redevelopment of the State office complex to date. I’m realizing now that maybe my enthusiasm for government and politics and my belief (up until November 2016, at least) that government can truly be a force for good comes at least somewhat from a place of privilege. I’m a super rule follower who always tries to work the system to make things happen. But for many people, the system is broken and doesn’t work. A politician says they’ll do something and doesn’t follow through, and the people hurt by that decision don’t have a good way at expressing their discontent. (And on a lighter note, can I say how I love that the title of this episode evokes the line “Here comes the General” from “Hamilton.”)

The catalyst for the events of the episode is the Governor of California, Govenor Fillucci, placing a call to Courtney. He wants to visit Fort Grey. Courtney, the boys, and Val are all really excited about this opportunity. Val especially really wants Courtney to go all out with the hobnobbing. Fort Grey doesn’t get much state funding compared to other municipalities, and Courtney sees this as a real chance to advocate for the city and bring those state dollars home. Courtney and the boys put together an itinerary that they really think will show the Governor the true Fort Grey. They want him to see the all-day café famous for its waffles, the “recommissioned” train yard, and the city park where people play chess. Unfortunately, this isn’t what the Governor had in mind. He wants to skeet shoot with Courtney at a fancy sporting club 40 miles north of Fort Grey. TK and Jermaine aren’t thrilled by this, but Courtney thinks it could be worth it if he can get the Governor to help the city. Dina also is unfazed by the change in venue. Her coworker Krystal has been talking incessantly about the photograph she got with the Postmaster General, and Dina wants Courtney to get her a photo with the Governor to compete.

The meeting with the Governor goes surprisingly well. Courtney is game for skeet shooting and does reasonably well at it. The rather stuffy Governor gets to be photographed with a buzzy, Black mayor (who is wearing a “Reelect Fillucci hat none-the-less), and there are no major gaffes. Dina even gets her picture with the Governor. Following the shooting, the Governor invites Courtney up to the club house for a steam. TK and Jermaine seem skeptical, but they figure why not enjoy a little bit of the good life. Things get awkward, however, when the Governor realizes TK and Jermaine are in the steam room and says he’ll come back another time. Seeing his chance to get funding for Fort Grey slipping away, Courtney shoos TK and Jermaine out of the steam room so he and the Governor can get down to sweaty brass tacks. Courtney reminds the Governor of how helpful that photograph will be and asks for something concrete in return. Governor Fillucci promises that Fort Grey will be at the top of the list for an upcoming round of urban renewal grants. Even though he’s a bit of a sell-out, Courtney feels like he’s accomplished something good.

By the time the gang is back at the office however, things have gone south. The local news has found a rap video Courtney and his friends released when they were in high school, the chorus of which starts with “Don’t Vote.” The lyrics are rather harsh, but the boys were basically expressing their frustration and lack of belief in their government. Of course, the Governor gives a press conference right away where he calls on Courtney to officially apologize if Fort Grey is going to get any support from the State. Courtney is read to do just that if it means getting help for Fort Grey, so now TK and Jermaine think he’s a complete sell out. Val (who we learn in this episode is a crazy good marksman and has pink ear protection) of course approves whole heartedly, and I’ll admit, so did I.

TK and Jermaine basically decide to kidnap Courtney to make their point. First they take him to the All Day Café, but they don’t stop for waffles, much to Courtney’s chagrin. Then they head to the chess tables at the park, and Courtney knows what’s up. They guys are trying to give him the tour that they were going to give the Governor to remind him of where he came from. The final stop isn’t the train yard, though. It’s a dilapidated building that has a sign on it saying it is going to be the Fort Grey Resource Center. Back when they made the video, the Resource Center was already way behind schedule, and these several years later, there has still been no progress. There were even lines in the Don’t Vote song about it. This is when I made that connection to my experience in Baltimore ten years ago. Courtney and his friends really did have a legitimate gripe against the political establishment. They were supposed to get a wonderful new resource center that would provide job training, among other things, but it sits there unfinished.

Dina, meanwhile, did indeed get her picture with the Governor, and her coworker, Krystal, is sore about it. She thinks this is just one more way Dina is one-upping her. They do have a nice heart-to-heart about how nobody truly has it all (except maybe Jimmy Kimmel), and Dina has her struggles too. She even encourages Krystal to put her Postmaster General picture back up. For his part, Courtney shows up to the press conference, and everybody thinks he’s going to apologize. Instead he gives a great speech about how he and his friends felt disenfranchised when they wrong their song, and he knows there are still kids in Fort Grey who feel like that today. He doesn’t want to delegitimize their feelings by apologizing for his own past feelings. He wants to be a leader those kids can actually count on. The Governor ends up liking Courtney’s speech, which of course means Val now approves too (although she claims she would have approved even if the Governor didn’t call and say he liked it).

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