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Hammons says Tolbert gets more credit than he deserves. "He's not a genius," he says, then repeats it, in a sing-song voice, "not a genius!"
While explaining the "black Wal-Mart" idea, Tolbert gets off track and starts talking about pawnshops. Black people should go to pawnshops for money instead of banks, Tolbert declares. Hammons looks at him in disbelief, shaking his head.
"People understand that if they want to go to a pawnshop and walk out with money, they have to bring something as collateral," Tolbert says. "People understand that from pawnshops but not from banks. Nobody in his right mind should loan money to someone who doesn't have any, or any hard, assets."
Hammons pushes back from the table in disgust and walks off.
Tolbert doesn't mention that his idea is one that he has recycled over the years. In 1971, following his election to the City Council, Tolbert spoke of creating a shopping and recreation center. And in 1990, Tolbert told the Star of his plans to build a minimall at 45th Street and Troost. The Wal-Mart plan is just the newest name for another of Tolbert's perpetually incomplete ideas.
But why let a little reality get in the way of empty boasting? "I think I'm better at economics than politics. And this [black Wal-Mart] idea will probably make me rich. But we're gonna find out. It's all political when you're dealing with the affairs of people."
Tell it to the weeds.