Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thanks For Nothing

Miloon Kothari and Gay McDougall of the United Nations have given a tremendous gift to their opponents. They were the two UN panelists that condemned the decision to demolish New Orleans public housing as discriminatory.

Turns out, they're not informed enough to defend their positions against the most basic inquiries by the local paper. They look like fools now.

They based their judgments on things that they've read in the news and on reports out of the activist community.

I would have liked it better if they'd voiced their concerns while those debates were ongoing.

By waiting until after it had become too late to save the public housing stock of New Orleans or otherwise reevaluate taxpayer giveaways to the developer elite, one would assume the UN officials had taken the time to properly research the housing situation here in the city. It would make sense that if this UN panel had waited all this time to say something that they would have at least called city officials or visited the city or collected sociological data to give their belated findings some weight.

But they didn't. What they did do was formulate an opinion based almost entirely on the accounts of the activists. As has been well documented here and throughout the blogosphere, those activists blew that debate because their tactics were force fit and poorly considered. Again and again, the unabashedly pro-demolition Times-Picayune and unabashedly racist talk radio outlets of New Orleans were able to seize on the missteps of activists to turn public opinion overwhelmingly against "outside agitators" while simultaneously ignoring pressing red flags.

Legitimate concerns include the cozy relationship between HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson and the private developers, the acres upon acres of preexisting empty lots owned by HUD and HANO that have yet to see any construction, the affordable housing crisis, the upcoming displacement of tens of thousands due to formaldehyde contamination of FEMA trailers, the homelessness crisis, and so on and so forth.

The UN report didn't mention those things. It vaguely referred to "a lack of consultation."

I'm afraid it was the UN that is guilty of a lack of consultation.

I would have been happy to describe to them the backlash they could expect in the event that their belated and incomplete two cents on the public housing debate was found to be totally unsubstantiated by the local media.

I could have helped them anticipate these questions from local media:

"Did you visit New Orleans?"

"What statistics have you examined?"

Mr. Kuthari and Ms. McDougall have no answers. They look stupid today.

Thanks for nothing.

You've set back legitimate inquires into systemic discriminatory reconstruction policies in New Orleans. You've set back efforts to sway public opinion on these matters as well.

Good luck explaining yourselves.


This is probably counterproductive for the activists as well. They're totally rudderless right now.


scrimp said...

My activism....


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el stevo said...

More than 86 percent of those families who lived in C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, St. Bernard and Lafitte, the developments slated for the wrecking ball, said they would prefer to live elsewhere.

E said...

That's really not the point El Stevo.

Inflated rental rates, affordable housing shortages, the plight of formaldehyde refugees, and the homelessness epidemic have been largely ignored or regressively addressed by the municipal government here.

The ties between HUD, HANO, and the private developers have not been fully vetted (to borrow a popular word). There are hundreds of acres of empty lots where projects have already been demolished that have not been redeveloped.

There is no evidence that the planned mixed-income communities can be successful given the current economic downturn and the city's disorganized recovery. (See the developer decision to halt building at River Garden)

For whatever reason, people have continuously hinted that public housing advocates want to restore the pre-Katrina public housing stock as it was.

This is false false false.

What I'd like to see is some sort of coherent strategy that addresses the short and long term housing crises and establishes mechanisms for native New Orleanians to return home.

GentillyGirl said...

E? You have the same point I follow: where are the solutions for bringing folks home?

The "Bricks" sucked, but they were a home.

We need to bring our folks home.