Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Trash Talk

This is just embarrassing. Raw video available at WWLTV.

There was surprisingly some intelligent, cool-hearded, rational discussion about the personal tensions underlying the gridlock. But none of that gets to the substance of the sanitation contracts and the selective enforcement of the rule of law.

We simply do not have civilized debate on policy in the public realm in New Orleans.

23 comments:

Clifton said...

I can't believe this sanitation issue has snowballed out of control like this. The most unfortunate part of all is that this is one story that could really bring the public together. Every single person involved deserves blame.

publiucious said...

Can you blame the City Council? I don't know what else Jackie, Arnie and Co. could have done, really, and am baffled by the "pox on all your houses/spread the blame around" thing. The mayor had the power to get things sorted out, more than anyone. The buck should stop with him. He has some of the most extensive powers, legally and structurally speaking, of any mayor in the U.S.

E said...

Well the issue is that Council, or some people on Council, find it too often expedient to protect the administration from pointed questioning. Like today the whole meeting devolved when CWL cuts off Head's inquiry.

Of course it starts with the Mayor and trickles on down... But Council doesn't have to hamstring itself at every turn of events. Can't blame Nagin for Council playing into his hands.

publiucious said...

Oh well, CWL. The Big/Gang of Four or whatever, and sometimes the other Cynthia, the fault doesn't lie as much with them. Not all parties are equally to blame, and the mayor should still bear most of the responsibility.

Clifton said...

Every mayor of New Orleans has had the same powers that Nagin has.

Before this whole mess got started the mayor never mentioned anything about sanitation. There were no sanitation cuts in his original budget. The council helped him out by making sanitation the big deal and it just so happens that the French Quarter had the advanced services and the over billing. The mayor being the vindictive guy he is took advantage of it. Now people are trying to save face by working out a deal. The reason we are using economic development funds to pay for the extra services is because we really didn't have the money to keep doing it. That's why the idea of taking the mayor to court didn't happen. The council gets blame for not being straight with the people themselves. Personally, I don't mind if there is seven day trash pickup in the entire French Quarter but let's not pretend like we can afford that easily. The council should come clean with the citizens and admit that we are using money that shouldn't go to sanitation for extra services for the Quarter. Everybody knows that the French Quarter is important financially. It doesn't take dividing the city over sanitation to get that point across.

Because I don't want to sound like I am taking sides I actually agree with Stacy Head's premise that we are all overpaying. If she just would have went bonkers over SDT's part of the contract the way she did over Richards and Metro then this entire thing may have been viewed differently by everyone.

Clifton said...

E,
I am sorry for clogging up your comment section but I have to get this last little thing off of my chest. I want to make sure everyone understands why this kind of thing is bad in the big
picture.

Let's take Arnie Fielkow who wants to run for mayor. The way this sanitation story has been played out in the media, he can't do anything with the other two sanitation deals even if they are bad. If he tries then every race baiting black politician and spokesman will use that as an example that everything is really a plot to take their power away. It would get so bad that even a good candidate like James Perry wouldn't have a chance against the old guard because of his cross section of support which should be a strength and not a weakness.

Councilmen Fielkow and Clarkson's only option now is to let Stacy Head take the racial heat and look crazy while they let the clock run out and not do anything. They have to because nothing will energize black voters like being paranoid about their future here. Now we are all trapped between three overpriced sanitation contracts or one of the most racially divisive elections ever and no one can win that except for the blackest black candidate even if he or she is not the best candidate. In the end we all lose if that happens.

I know I am being long winded but that's why the recovery is where it is. The people at the top are putting politics first. That's why when the sanitation inquiry started we should have looked at all three companies at the same time with the same intensity so the facts could override the emotions because in New Orleans our emotions always cloud the facts.

publiucious said...

Of course he has the same power. What's the beef with me there? I didn't say anything different in saying that he has more inherent power, from a *legal and structural standpoint*, than other mayors in the US, not NOLA.

The rest of the note sounds like a demand that the council must refuse to exercise oversight for fear or stirring the pot (that is its central role in a strong mayor-weak council system), or that it cut funds out of a budget that Nagin has much, much more control over. The mayor was the one who tried to turn a case of simple oversight into a big race thing (issuing a statement to the effect that he'd heard rumors of racist remarks, but hadn't seen the tape yet), when Head didn't make any racially-tinged remarks whatsoever.

It would be great to have a council that knew how to work with the mayor, that knew how to prod him without ticking him off, but the mayor's behavior is increasingly odd. I'm not sure that anyone could work with him, really. Look at how the mayor's office reacted to an IG's report about how to save money via the use of city cars. And he had control over that, totally.

Clifton said...

Publiucious,
In no way am I defending that mayor or calling Ms. Head a racist. I'm just trying to say like always that there people in this city perceive issues and stories differently depending on where they live and their circumstances. Everything you say makes sense but between the television news, the newspaper and the comment section on nola.com and other places, it's getting hard for people to remain open minded.

Ray Nagin knew exactly what he was doing when he suspended those services in the French Quarter and it was an easy for him to get away with it because what appears to be one sided reporting by the mainstream media and grandstanding by certain council members. Just because the number of people who agree with him doesn't make the news doesn't mean they are not there and plentiful. It's not even a matter of the people liking the job he's doing. He just knows how to play on their frustrations and feeling insulted.

They all have been waiting for an "I told ya so" moment and they might have just gotten it.

E said...

Cliff I think your assessment of the politics of the sanitation situation is dead-on. The old guard has gone all in on it and it's going to be really tough for people to push the issue.

And that's why Nagin pushed this battle right now. It was smart politics.

publiucious said...

Good politics for what? He can't run again in 2010, has no obvious hand-picked successor. Congress in 2010? The only person with substantial ties to Nagin, Kenya Smith, didn't do so hot last time. So he's not building a dynasty or a Nagin Machine, exactly. What's the endgame?

E said...

Good politics for accomplishing his goals. Right not he seems to be interested in things like saving face, self preservation, and settling scores.

Civitch said...

Clifton and E - I agree with your assessment of the politics and motivations of this mess, but in the meantime the city suffers greatly, and regular citizens are being kicked around. Ray Nagin is abusing the citizens of New Orleans for his own petty games - are we all just supposed to sit back and take it for the next 15 months? Because many of us aren't willing to wait that long.

Clifton said...

You can't sit back and take it but you can't allow the media and other elected officials to have such a different approach to the problem depending on who owns the company. Look at how respectful everyone was to Mr. Torres in spite of his over billing and dumping waste into the sewer system. Everybody including some of these progressive bloggers were ready to accuse Mr. Woods and Mr. Richards of being part of a mafia conspiracy to rob the city blind when there was no evidence to that.
Just because Veronica White is unprofessional doesn't mean that every black owned company that does business with the city is crooked. When those guys get disrespected and the other company gets treated like a corporate saint you leave the door open for Nagin to make the kind of moves that he does because people are really offended and he becomes their spokesman even if he's not sincere about it.
That's why when Councilwoman Head got angry the first time, the story should have revolved around all three companies and the entire city. That takes his ability to play the race card out of it because the focus is on the cost of sanitation and not what company and neighborhood is worthy of special treatment.

We can't keep picking and choosing what citizens and neighborhoods are worthy of public outrage.

Anonymous said...

If Nagin has no other endgame other than meeting "goals" related to his ego, then of course he gets nearly all of the blame here. The ends never justify the means if there are no political ends to speak of. Seriously. Just go jogging or take up training for boxing, go to a rifle range, whatever.

E said...

well the intent here wasn't necessarily to affix blame, it was to analyze what happened.

I don't think anybody is saying that Nagin is anything other than selfish, disengaged, incompetent, and reckless.

Clifton said...

I wasn't defending Nagin at all. I was showing how slanted reporting and the desire to make everyone in his administration corrupt is actually helping him gain sympathy with the black community. The uncontrolled venom towards him and the media's endorsement of it is his greatest asset because even if the remarks are directed at him only, the tone strikes a nerve that makes us all hurt. It's reason why some days I can't read local news online because even if I agree the mayor sucks, there's going to be something over the line that's going to hurt me personally. People want the city to change and we need a new mayor but you have to think about the messages that are being sent to other people in the process. E, I apologize for these long comments.

By the way, Sidney Torres dancing in the streets to celebrate his good fortune will do wonders for relations in the city. After such a tense issue he should have just taken his money and picked up the trash so we could move on.

E said...

you leave great comments cliff, keep 'em coming.

and my god did trashanova look like a jackass or what?

totally stupid

Jeffrey said...

Clifton is spot-on. Everyone involved with this does deserve a portion of the blame, especially those by association or implication.

I agree that Arnie doesn't have anything to gain at this point (nor do Clarkson and Midura), but that makes me feel even less comfortable with his candidacy for Mayor than I was before. If he can't help diffuse a situation like this--taking into account the line of thinking that Clifton has outlined--how can he be expected to make bolder decisions under more public scrutiny?

I like the 'trashanova' moniker. Dude is ridiculous, and the whole situation is absurd. This administration is a comedy of errors, but it would be funnier if it wasn't the city I am living in for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

Stacy Singleton Head is just a product of her upbringing. She's from a little racist town called Greensburg, LA and she attended the whites-only Oak Forest Academy in Amite (she leaves that and even her maiden name ouf of her bios trying to give the impression she's born and bred in the Garden District). You might accuse Veronica white of stonewalling but Stacy's action are a juvenile display of racism.

Anonymous said...

If Nagin has gained so much sympathy with the black community, why haven't Cynthia Hedge-Morrell started voting with him all the time? What about James Carter? The only person voting with Nagin all the time now is the other Cythnia, making me wonder if she sees what Cliff thinks he does or if she's misjudging the feelings of her base for the larger black voting population in NOLA? She lost to Jackie last time, though. I don't think CWL is a political genius or anything. And the guy who led Nagin to re-elected, the political guru of NOLA, is dead. He hasn't developed any sort of machine.

Is this a case of the politics being nasty precisely because the stakes are so small, like most academic or office politics? Or does Nagin see no stakes other than the personal? Unless he wants Cynthia Willard Lewis in, unless they have some arrangement, all of this is for nothing.

Stacy Head, as ridiculous or racist or whatever you might think she is, was at least arguing on behalf of her constituents, who are not served by SDT as far as I know. (And yeah, I thought she was out of line with her attempts to provoke public housing protesters, etc., but I still don't see any racism in this particular case, or anything that excuses or rationalizes Nagin's behavior.)

publiucious said...

And now CWL just voted in favor of an ordinance restricting the number of cars Nagin can use to 60. A compromise was surely worked out there, given that the law restricts the number to 50. But ... doesn't look like a win for Nagin's goals here.

Clifton said...

First of all Cliff never said Stacy Head was a racist. Some anonymous person did. Secondly, I think you might be missing my point. This is all about perception and you need to think beyond Ray Nagin and the current elected officials. This is about an entire community.

CWL can vote for the ordinance and the mayor won't play the race card this time because there hasn't been the same sensationalism about the car issue. The car vote is all about facts and figures. Everybody regardless of color can think clearly about just facts and figures. It makes sense that we don't need 273 take home cars. As long as we keep it about the facts this issue will be handled and gone.

The sanitation issue was not handled this way. The sanitation issue was personal, emotional and became neighborhood and class warfare. That's what helps Nagin take up the banner as protector of the people. You might think I am tripping about this but Councilman Fielkow sees what I do. Yesterday on the way home from work I listened to him sit on the only local black talk show for almost two hours and field emotional calls and questions from listeners. He was trying to urge everyone to move forward because he knows that the sanitation issue wasn't handled properly and he can't let that fester if he wants to have a chance to bring the city together.

E said...

Again, Cliff is correct.

We've been saying that the most recent dust-up had not been artfully handled by Council and the FQ and this is why Nagin "won" the confrontation.

That's not a value judgment on the issue, just an analysis of the isolated tactics.

And the votes on the transparency and car ordinances today present an interesting contrast.