Saturday, December 22, 2007

For what went on inside the City Council chambers, check the New Orleans News Ladder:
At the end, each council member read a lengthy explanation of his or her vote, and it became clear that they had prepared these statements together prior to the hearing. To me, that meant that the meeting was not a hearing at all, so a lot of very busy people had just wasted their time preparing their own three-minute speeches. The deal had already been done, and we were just spinning wheels, no doubt to the considerable amusement of the council members, the mayor, and the federal authorities. I judge the council members harshly for this deception. Furthermore, they had the outrageous audacity to correct the public for noise while they were speaking, yet they laughed and joked while the public was speaking. In fact, one man stopped his comments and demanded their attention before proceeding. It was a mockery of democratic procedures, and for that reason I found myself sympathizing with the outrage of the demonstrators. I also felt outraged, though I do not like to demonstrate in the manner they did. I left the meeting with the conviction that George Bush and his clique had their vision of what they wanted to look like, so they told Alphonso Jackson, who extorted obedience from the council. I do not know what the council would have decided, if the members had in fact been free to vote their own judgments. I have a copy of the threatening letter that Alphonso Jackson wrote to the mayor and the council.
I have a copy of that letter, too. It ain't Tony Soprano speaking, but it does remind city officials that the vouchers of former Lafitte tenants will be terminated at the end of this month if they don't go through with demolition, among other things. The almighty HUD had certainly spoken.

Oyster, that conscientious landlord, also gives us the questioning that should have been taken up by da local paper with regards to available low-income housing in New Orleans. The arguments he presents also expose how much of the anti-demo activists' actions were spurred on by reaction more than actual organized resistance, because there ain't no rest for the wicked, but if you are righteous, you, too, need to throw that rest away when you are in pursuit:
HUD says 154 units are available, and the T-P editorial board says "the city doesn't seem to have the severe shortage of public housing that demolition opponents say exists." Well, if a reporter is willing to follow an elderly public housing activist back to her home for an inspection, why can't T-P reporters do similar legwork to verify HUD's claims about available units?

In October, Senator Vitter said 400 units were available "right now". Then the T-P reported as "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now". Days later, the number of available units "right now" was down to 154. Does even that number hold water, especially in light of DNOPH's claim that last year HUD acknowledged that the "250 prepared units...never existed"? Neither the T-P nor the activists were willing to find out for sure.

Why didn't activists press hard on this dubious, evolving HUD number upon which the T-P based so much of its reporting and editorial opinion? Wasn't this a politically exploitable "soft spot"? If the T-P was forced to retract its false subheading about the "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now", and if HUD was shown to be lying about the 154 unit number-- a distinct possibility in my view-- wouldn't the activists be in a very strong position to demand a second opinion on, say, HUD's rehab vs. redevelop cost numbers? Couldn't any HUD number be credibly disputed at that point? What if the activists presented 154 displaced families who were willing to fill up the available units, and what if HUD was unable to come up with the 154 units that they claimed? How would that look? How would the T-P look? Wouldn't that be a political winner?
It's just too damn bad this is hindsight. It should have been seen by all of us all along, in much greater detail.

I'm gonna crawl back into bed now.


carmen said...

I have been wondering since last night just how the forced resignation of Oliver Thomas has played into this long-stewing debate. How would the council have voted if he were still at-large? We were all surprised at how swiftly his processing moved in contrast to others. Not that corruption should not be removed, but was anything else in play here?

Leigh C. said...

Yet another bit of hindsight...and a damned good question.

However, depending on how corrupt the Feds say OT was, he probably would have toed the line as well, but not without a lot of bluster on his own part. Got to wonder, though, if he was standing in the way of the demolitions and presented THAT much of an obstacle...