Monday, April 07, 2008

Look Who's Getting Frisky

Can you believe it?

There's a column in the Times-Picayune today that I can proudly call a must-read.

Lolis Eric Elie showed some real claws.

Read it, you'll like it.

Seems like bloggers aren't the only New Orleanians that can't get Council to answer their questions.

It's understandable why Jackson didn't want to talk about allegations that he sought to rig contracts in New Orleans, Philadelphia and the Virgin Islands. What isn't clear is why New Orleans officials are so reluctant to talk about it.

Smack!

At the top of his Web site, City Council President Arnie Fielkow says he has "the courage to do what is right for a better New Orleans." Perhaps in keeping with his vision of courage, he voted with the council majority to demolish our city's public housing. Yet now he lacks the courage to explain his vote.

"He is not available for an interview on this topic," his spokesperson told me.

Boom!

When I tried to ask Councilman James Carter about his vote in favor of demolition, the phone line went quiet.

After a long pause, Carter said, "I don't like this line of questioning. It's adversarial."

I reminded Carter that adversarial relationships are part of our system of government. He reminded me that he is a lawyer. Duly informed, I asked him a legal question:

Doesn't the City Charter require the City Planning Commission to "prepare and recommend to the council" plans for the clearance of public housing developments?

After another long pause, Carter said, "I don't need to explain anything. This conversation is over."

Got-damn!

Let me start by saying that this is the type of work a Times-Picayune columnist ought to be doing every single day. Mr. Elie sounded like a.... well, he sounded like a blogger.

He had some serious questions on the public housing decision following Alfonso Jackson's resignation and couldn't find a single elected official willing to answer them. Cynthia Willard-Lewis, Elie says, tends to ignore interview requests on most other issues as well.

Instead of dropping the story and moving on to another topic on which he might be able to find some cooperative Councilmen or Councilwomen, he took a risk.

He embraced his responsibility as an adversary to government and published a scathing indictment of the courage of our officials rife with innuendos as to the motivations informing their silence.

Did City Council violate City Charter by approving the public housing demolition permits without the recommendations of the City Planning Commission?

What does Alfonso Jackson's resignation and the serious allegations being made regarding his relationship with developers say about HUD's control of HANO?

Are the redevelopment plans pushed by Jackson and his surrogates and approved by City Council clean?
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At the end of February, I began equating City Council's unanimous vote for the demolition of public housing to Congress' approval of the Iraq War resolution. A foolish decision the moment that they made it, some members of Council were clearly pressed to vote 'yes' because of political pressures made more powerful by the local media's clear pro-demolition bias and public passions against "outside agitators."

The more I think about that comparison, the more it seems to fit.

It would seem that some members of City Council based their vote on what I'll call "faulty intelligence" presented by Alfonso Jackson.

Knowing what you know now, would you still vote to approve the demolition of the city's public housing stock?

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Fascinating that Council officials determined it was smarter to refuse to answer questions and allow insinuations that they somehow were involved in Jackson's shady business to become more reasonable than to admit that they were too trusting of HUD and that they wish they'd voted differently.

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The refusal of our City Council officials to answer questions is telling and patterned behavior predicated on their assumption that the citizens of New Orleans forget.

Follow up for Mr. Elie and call or write New Orleans City Council. Demand that they respond to the questions being raised by Mr. Elie, myself, and many other New Orleans bloggers and residents that want to get to the root of why the city has not developed a plan to mitigate the affordable housing shortage.

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2 comments:

Leigh C. said...

Dude!

I'm glad you've reviewed this. I'm gonna have to check it out now. Don't know who lit a fire under Elie, but he is really coming through on the housing reporting.

E said...

It's unbelievable. He's been totally cut loose lately. I want to give him a high five.